WP Juniors (M), Day 7: Mission completed, Italy crowned as world champion

FINA World Junior Water Polo Championships

Italian team, new world champions - credit: LOC/Noemi KondorSzombathely (Hungary), 18 August – The Italian team completed its mission: after earning this age-group’s U18 world title and the U19 European triumph they added the U20 world crown to their tally. They proved their tactical and physical superiority against Croatia as well.

Serbia clinched the bronze medal by winning a great game against the hosts Hungarians.


For places 7-8
Australia vs. Brazil 8-9
Quarters: 1-1, 3-3, 2-3, 2-2

AUSTRALIA: ADDLEY Gabriel, FORD George 2, PAVILLARD Luke, SKINNER Matthew 1, POWER Nathan 2, PERROTT Matthew, SINDONE Paul, TRABINGER Justin, MARSHALL Gordon 1, SINCLAIR Tyler 1, EGAN Daniel, EDWARDS Lachlan 1, COCOKIOS Sam

BRAZIL: MANFRINI Marcelo, JUNIOR Marcos, MARTINS Felipe, REAL Pedro 1, TAYER Pedro, GOMES Bernardo 1, BORGES Pedro, VASCONSCELOS Henrique, GOMES Guilherme 1, SALGADO Gabriel, GUIMARAES Gustavo 3, STELLET Pedro 3, CAMPOS Bernardo

Extramen:
AUS: 2 for 6
BRA: 2 for 6

Penalties:
AUS: 0 for 1
BRA: 1 for 1

Referees: Putnikovic (SRB), Schwartz (ISR)

Seven game in seven day for both teams – sometimes this takes its toll on junior teams’ performances: both team had ups and down throughout this match, since the Aussies went downhill at the end, Brazil ended up as the winner.

The Brazilians started better, led 3-1 at the middle of the second period but three goals in 1:31 minutes put the Aussies in front. Stellet scored an extra for 4-4, and still in the second Brazil had another 6 on 5 to lead by halftime but missed the opportunity. Just as the Aussies in the third: after Marshall’s goal from the centre they also had a man-up to lead by two but failed to put it away and Stellet equalized. Brazil a 6 on 4 (double man-up) but the Aussie defence worked brilliantly and Skinner scored for 6-5. But the roller-coaster didn’t stop, it was Brazil’s turn, they were 6-7 up by the end of the third, Guimaraes netted two action goals, the second came in the very last second.

The Aussies bounced back, however, Ford scored an action goal, and even though Sindone missed a penalty, Edwards fine centre-goal gave them an 8-7 lead with 4:27 to go. They have a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead again but Perrott missed his shot from a 6 on 5 (after a time-out) and Gomes levelled the score from the centre 28 seconds later. That was the final turning point: with 1:32 to go Brazil earned a penalty, Guimaraes converted it for 8-9. The Aussies got a last chance at 0:19 to save the match into extra-time, but Marshall couldn’t score from their 6 on 5 and the Brazilians started to celebrate their best-ever finish.

For places 5-6
United States vs. Spain 9-7

Quarters: 3-1, 2-2, 4-0, 0-4

USA: BARON McQuin, FELLNER Patrick 1, ZWANEVELD Alec 2, FARMER Matthew, ABDULHAMID Adam, ROBERTS Ryder, McCLINTICK Danny, BONANNI Bret 2, BOWEN Alexander 2, RAMIREZ Chancellor 2, McCONNELL Nolan, KIMBELL Jackson, DANNER Garrett

SPAIN: LORRIO Eduardo, MUNARRIZ Alberto 1, MONTPEAT Joshua, CABANAS Sergi 1, DE TORO Miguel, LARUMBE Marc 1, BARROSO Alberto 2, MATOSO Vicente 1, REIXACH Gerard 1, BUSTOS Alejandro, GORRIA Javier, BUSTOS Javier, EXPOSITO Victor

Extramen:
USA: 6 for 7
ESP: 3 for 11

Penalties:
USA: none
ESP: 1 for 1

Referees: Vasenin (RUS), Vlasic (CRO)

Team US seemed to be better motivated for this closing game: the difference between the level of concentration is clearly shown at the scoring stat of the man-ups, the US guys were 6 for 7, an amazing rate in any water polo game while the Spaniards could put away only one-third of their opportunities.

The US started the match really strongly, they took a 5-1 lead deep into the second period but the Spanish managed to pull two back until the middle break for 5-3. And the third decided everything: the Americans showed a brilliant display of water polo, scored and action goal, converted all three man-ups they earned while the Spaniards were 0 for 3 in this period. After this 4-0 rush there was no way back, though the Spaniards tried to save some pride. Since the extras came a bit off balanced in the fourth (1-5 and a penalty for Spain), narrowing the gap was easier but the US win was never in real danger.

Bronze Medal Game
Serbia vs. Hungary 13-10

Quarters: 4-1, 5-7, 2-0, 2-2

SERBIA: VITOROVIC Milan, TANASKOVIC Djordje 1, MAKSIMOVIC Milos, VASIC Dusan, SUBOTIC Gavril 3, STOJANOVIC Ognjen, MANDIC Dusan 4, RASOVIC Viktor 1, RANDJELOVIC Sava, MANOJLOVIC Marko, MATKOVIC Nemanja, OBRADOVIC Dimitrije 4, JAKSIC Nikola

HUNGARY: BENDES Viktor, TELEGDY Andras, JANSIK Szilard, BEDO Krisztian 1, BERTA Jozsef 3, SEDLMAYER Tamas 2, GYARFAS Tamas 1, CSAPO Miklos 1, LORINCZ Balint, SZABO Bendeguz, MANHERCZ Krisztian 1, NEMET Toni 1, GYORGY David

Extramen:
SRB: 5 for 7
HUN: 4 for 11

Penalties:
SRB: 2 for 2
HUN: 1 for 1

Referees: Garibaldi (ARG), Pioletti (ITA)

Hungary left stranded in the first five minutes, the Serbs scored two action goals from their first two attacks, added two more a bit later and led 4-0 with 2:40 to go. The Hungarians woke up a bit late, Berta scored from a 6 on 5 – after they missed their first two – so the crowd had at least something to cheer for. The fans got louder in the second which saw the hosts enjoying a kind of flow as they scored 7 goals in a single period, quite a feat against a team like Serbia. Though the Serbs also joined the festival by netting five, so it became one of the most spectacular period of the entire championships. To the joy of the capacity crowd the Hungarians came back from 5-2 down to 7-7. Mandic scored two fine goals after this for 9-7 but Nemet pulled one back in the last minute so it stood 9-8 at half-time, a scoreline good enough for a final result.

As usually happens after such a whirlwind, goals dry up in the following period. In that sense the hosts could feel themselves in a desert: after their magnificent shooting series they remained scoreless for the next 11 minutes. Their man-up didn’t work, missed all 5 in the second half (when they scored earlier they did it after a couple of passes within seconds, but couldn’t finish them after a longer set up), mainly due to the great defensive work of the Serbs. Who were also really effective in offense, scored two fast goals in a minute early in the third for 11-8 which put pressure to the hosts and after that they concentrated to maintain the gap. They did the same in the fourth, Obradovic scored his fourth of the day, Tanaskovic converted an extra for 13-8 and it was over. The Hungarians pulled two back towards the end but that was enough only to lose by the same scoreline (13-10) as in semis against Croatia. At the other end the Serbs were so overjoyed that they tossed their coach Vlado Vujasinovic to the pool, a usual scene after a final but for them it was the same – they won their final game and earned a medal, even if it was a bronze.

FLASH QUOTES

Vlado Vujasinovic, head coach of Serbia
“I’m really satisfied what we did today and what we achieved in this tournament. Though we came here with one target in mind, to win the title, it’s still a great result for this young team. It was a bitter loss in the semis, we had a huge chance to equalize in the last seconds (against Italy) but couldn’t make it. Today we came back and won with our hearts. A medal is a great result in today’s game so we are happy: these guys did a lot of work and deserved to be awarded for that.”

Gyorgy Horkai, head coach of Hungary
“It’s a bad feeling to lose the last two matched in front of such a fantastic crowd but at the end we have to admit that those three teams finishing ahead of us are all better sides. Our team had two 6th places previously (at the age-group European Championships) and that was realistic that time. Since I took over this company one and a half year ago the players did a tremendous job, improved in all fields of the game. It was a huge step forward that our team played in the top division of our national league, it helped to gain experience against senior clubs and we could achieve here what we liked to: we got into the best four. Perhaps our guys got a bit more relaxed after this and didn’t concentrate as they should have had to.”

Gold Medal Game
Italy vs. Croatia 10-7

Quarters: 2-3, 4-1, 1-1, 3-2

ITALY: VESPA Lorenzo, DI FULVIO Francesco 3, PRESCIUTTI Nicholas, VERGANO Tommaso, FONDELLI Andrea 2, ALESIANI Jacopo, RENZUTO IODICE Vincenzo, BRUNI Lorenzo, VELOTTO Alessandro 2, BUSILACCHI Tommaso 1, CUPIDO Luca 1, DOLCE Vincenzo 1, VASSALLO Gabriele

CROATIA: MARCELIC Ivan, BUKIC Luka 1, MACAN Marko, GORETA Antun, FATOVIC Loren 1, CAGALI Marino, LOZINA Luka 1, BUHA Antonio, VISKOVIC Ante 2, ZIVKOVIC Ivan, VUKICEVIC Ante 2, BASIC Andrija, GAGULIC Andro

Extramen:
ITA: 6 for 13
CRO: 4 for 14

Penalties:
ITA: 1 for 1
CRO: none

Referees: Uz (TUR), Buch (ESP)


Italian team, new world champions - credit: LOC/Noemi Kondor
Italian team, new world champions - credit: LOC/Noemi Kondor

As it turned out in the second half the real final was played a day before when Italy clashed with Serbia in the semis. Those were the two strongest teams of the field but the draw forced them to meet a round earlier. The Croats did their utmost but they gradually faded away and even though Italy led only by two after three periods they were clearly the better side.

Croatia produced a fine opening period, taking the lead three times and managing to deny a double man-down in the dying seconds. But the Italians started to come back in the second, Dolce scored a great action goal for 3-3 then Vassalo came up with a big save in a man-down. Di Fulvio netted one from a 6 on 5 so for the first time Italy was ahead. The Croats managed to level the score with an extraman goal from Lozina but the Italians answered immediately the same way (Cupido for 5-4). Presciutti blocked Zivkovic’s shot while Croatia played in 6 on 5 while Di Fulvio’s bouncing shot found its was to the net for 6-4 (that was their third goal from the left wing in this quarter). Vassalo caught another ball in a man-down so Italy was two up by half-time.

Though the Croats started with a great action goal from Viskovic for 6-5 they couldn’t put together their extraman-play. They missed three in this period while Italy managed to put one away though they needed a time-out to make order as they were also too nervous and missed one earlier. Busilacchi was up to the task this time (7-5), while the Croats couldn’t convert theirs.

When Velotto scored from another extra in the first minute of the fourth for 8-5 all could feel there was no way back for the Croats. And there wasn’t, in fact. Another miss in a 6 on 5, another Italian goal after a time-out virtually ended the contest: it was 9-5 with 3:35 to go. The Croats couldn’t bury their next extra – it was their 9th missed 6 on 5 in a row! –, Di Fulvio scored from the centre for 10-5 and it was the time when the Italians started to celebrate all over their bench. And in the pool as well, letting the Croats score two goals in the last 84 seconds but that didn’t change anything: the top favourite team managed to win the title. There is no doubt they are the best ones as they beat the silver and the bronze medallist teams and drew with the 4th placed side (but led by two with a minute to go against the Hungarians in the prelims), a kind of proof of their superiority.

As we could use to it, the Italian’s celebration was wilder than any other teams’, in fact their juniors copied the senior team’s way of celebrations from 2011 (when Italy won the FINA World Championships in Shanghai) when they jumped back to the pool after the victory ceremony with their gold medals around their neck.

FLASH QUOTES

Ferdinando Pesci, head coach of Italy
“It was a great tournament I’ve seen a lot of very talented young players, and a great celebration of water polo. This team won two major titles in the past years but winning this gold medal is still incredible for us. I think it was our organised way of play which brought us this fantastic result. We really concentrated to play a disciplined, tactical game and I think everyone could see that we were a real unit which worked hard to find its way to the top.”

Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach of Croatia
“I’d like to congratulate to Italy they showed they are the best team in the age-group. I’m really satisfied of what our side did in this championship, though I’m a little bit sad because of today’s game. We did a good job in the first half but in the second half we fell back mentally and physically so the difference was clear afterwards. We have seven younger players in our line-up: they are still not that strong psychologically. Still, it’s a great result as we had eight or nine top teams in this tournament who can beat each other at any given day so it’s fine to finish second in this field.

Final standings

1. Italy
2. Croatia
3. Serbia

4. Hungary
5. USA
6. Spain
7. Brazil
8. Australia
9. Japan
10. Russia
11. Canada
12. Uzbekistan
13. Slovakia
14. South Africa
15. Kazakhstan
16. Colombia

Best goalkeeper: Ivan Marcelic (CRO)

Best scorer: Kirill Rustamov (UZB)