Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee

Gwangju, South Korea.— Spain will play Italy in Saturday's gold-medal final of the FINA World Championship men's water polo tournament at the Nambu University Grounds in Gwangju.

In reaching the final and finishing ahead of FINA World League champion Serbia — pre-qualified because of the title — both teams earned Olympic berths for Tokyo 2020.

Spain was the first to book a ticket for Tokyo by dispensing with reigning world champion Croatia 6-5. Spain was 2-1, 4-1 and 6-2 up at the breaks and it was the efforts of Maro Jokovic who kept Croatia close with two of his three goals in the final quarter. Blai Malarach scored twice for Spain.

Italy came back from two down in the first quarter of its semifinal to take the match by the scruff and repulse a charging Hungary in the final period for a 12-10 margin.

In the classification 5-8 semifinals, Serbia came from two down to force a penalty shootout against Germany, winning 17-16. The scores were locked at 12-12 with Serbian superstar Dusan Mandic scoring five goals in regular time and one in the shootout. Germany has not beaten Serbia since 2010 and this was probably the closest chance to finally break the drought. Australia will play Serbia for fifth when it outlasted Greece with a lone goal in the final quarter 9-8. It was a torrid encounter where tiredness crept in and where the lead swapped several times.

In classification matches, United States of America scored a last-minute goal to beat a dejected Montenegro 15-14 for ninth position. The lead was a revolving door and the equalisers were also in the stratosphere, it seemed. Japan annexed 11th place with a resounding 15-5 victory over South Africa, who had its equal-best best finish at this level.

Thursday Schedule:

Classification 11-12
Match 39, 9.30, JAPAN 15 SOUTH AFRICA 5

Classification 9-10
Match 40, 11:00, MONTENEGRO 14 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 15

Classification 5-8 Semifinals
Match 41, 14:00, SERBIA 17 GERMANY 16 in penalty shootout (FT: 12-12. Pens: 5-4)
Match 42, 15:30, AUSTRALIA 9 GREECE 8

Classification 1-4 Semifinals
Match 43, 17:00, SPAIN 6 CROATIA 5
Match 44, 18:30, HUNGARY 10 ITALY 12

Friday Women’s Schedule

Classification 7-8
Match 45, 14:00, GREECE NETHERLANDS

Classification 5-6
Match 46, 15:30, RUSSIA ITALY

Classification 3-4
Match 47, 17:00, AUSTRALIA HUNGARY

Classification 1-2
Match 48, 18:30, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA SPAIN

Saturday Men’s Schedule

Classification 7-8
Match 45, 14:00, GERMANY v GREECE

Classification 5-6
Match 46, 15:30, SERBIA v AUSTRALIA

Classification 3-4
Match 47, 17:00, CROATIA v HUNGARY

Classification 1-2
Match 48, 18:30, SPAIN v ITALY