Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee

One of the most shocking results in recent day's water polo: Japan made the semis by beating the group-winner US team and reached the FINA World League Super Final's semis coming from the 4th place after the prelims. The Asian heroes will face Hungary, the hosts won a tremendous battle over world champion Croatia, edging out their arch-rivals in a penalty shootout, taking some revenge for last year's defeat in the 2017 World Championships final. The other two quarters were lop-sided contests, Montenegro beat Kazakhstan with ease while the Spaniards upended Australia in the second half.

Montenegro was the first team reaching the semifinals as they beat Kazakhstan with ease, as expected. The Montenegrins ruled the game right from the beginning, took a commanding 5-2 lead in the first period, maintained that gap until half-time and knocked out their rivals in the second half. The partial results are telling the story: the first half was 7-4, the second was 7-2, no surprise, no tension - a convincing and comfortable win for Montenegro.

A rare scene: the Kazakhs set to score - Credit: Jozsef Szaka

Spain was next to join the top four. Australia had the better start and in the first half it was an even affair, stood 2-2 while the man-ups didn't work at either sides. Spain began to gear up in the second half and while shutting out their rivals for 20:57 minutes, they gained a three-goal lead. Though the Aussies managed to came back to 4-5 but experience and better condition made the difference in the finish, Spain scored the last four goals and passed this test easily.

A view from above: a Croatian goal, shot from outside – and the catwalk (Credit: Istvan Derencsenyi)

The third game brought the most thrilling contest of the day – which is expected at any time when Hungary and Croatia clash. It was a tremendous fight between last year's world champion and the runner-up side, the defences did a huge job, killing man-downs were superb at both ends. In a highly tactical match Hungary took the upper hand in the second half breaking two goals clear and they held on until early in the fourth but the Croats staged a better finish to save the game into a penalty shootout. However, the Magyars were more precise, converted all four shots while the Croats had a miss then Viktor Nagy delivered a save (see the big picture) to close the match down (the Croats lost their second shootout in three days). It means that Hungary returns to the World League semis for the first time since 2014, while Croatia had to settle for the games played for 5-8th place – this happens to them for the very first time in history (when they qualified for the Super Final, always made the semis at least).

Marton Vamos celebrates his goal – the lefties delievered for Hungary

Well, if we said the third was a thriller, then it also applied to the fourth match – which was a kind of unexpected result, despite the fact that Japan already did the trick by beating the US last year at the World Championships. Still, this time the US side looked very strong, claimed three straight wins while Japan had three defeats. But this wasn't mirrored in the pool, it was a balanced match and with some luck in front and some heroic efforts in the back the Japanes could hold on for a win.

The Japanese won their first game here in Budapest – it was a shocker, indeed


15.15 Montenegro v Kazakhstan 14-6

16.45 Australia v Spain 4-9

18.15 Hungary v Croatia 6-6, pen: 4-2

19.45 Japan v United States v 11-10

Day 5, Schedule

For places 5-8

15.15 Croatia v United States

16.45 Australia v Kazakhstan


18.15 Hungary v Japan

19.45 Montenegro v Spain