Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee Member

The final day brought a series of thrillers as three of the four contests were decided by penalties, including the final which saw the Hungarian team winning the shootout against Spain. Interestingly, both sides remained unbeaten if we consider the regular time of the matches played in the tournament but the Magyars were a bit luckier at the end – or rather Spain ran out of luck as they also won their quarter final and semi final in the shootout. The bronze went to the Russians who upended the Serbs by shooting the penalties better. In fact the tournament was incredibly balanced, besides the Hungarians and the Spaniards, the Serbs, fourth, and the Montenegrins, fifth placed, didn’t lose a game in the regular time either but they missed a couple of crucial attempts in the shootouts and had to leave Istanbul empty-handed.

Game 69, 10.30, for places 7-8: Croatia vs. Italy 8-10
Quarters: 1-1, 3-4, 3-3, 1-2

Referees: Stankevich (USA), Ni (CHN)

CROATIA: Fran Cubranic, Rino Buric 1, Ivan Domagoj Zovic 2, Marko Buconic, Nikola Pavlicevic, Marin Dajic 2, Antonio Duzevic, Dario Rakovac 2, Marin Delic, Loren Fatovic, Domagoj Jajcinovic 1, Mislav Vrlic, Marin Sparada. Head coach: Jakta Buljan.
ITALY: Massimiliano Cicali, Giacomo Bannella, Christian Gandini 1, Nicolo Rocchi 1, Gaetano Baviera, Filippo Gavazzi 1, Emilio Caivavina 4, Eduardo Campopiano 1, Jacopo Alesiani 1, Mario Guidi 1, Biagio Borrelli, Gabriele Bassani, Fabio Viola. Head coach: Ferdinando Pesci.

Croatia: 5 for 16
Italy: 4 for 8

Croatia: –
Italy: 2 for 2

The Croatian youngsters couldn’t recover from the shocking defeats of the previous days – lost to the Russians in the shootout in the quarter final, then to Turkey –, their concentration level can be measured through their extramen play: in this game they missed 11 of 16. And there were a handful of crucial ones, especially those earned when the sides were tied. In fact the Croats never led during the match, always chased the Italians, for a while they managed to equalise but never stepped further. They had a 6 on 5 at 4-4 in the second and at 7-7 deep into the third which would have been a real turning point after they climbed back from 4-6 down. But they missed them, the Italians buried their extra for 7-8 and after the Croats couldn’t score from the following man-up, at the beginning of the fourth Caivavina netted another one for 7-9 (it was his fourth of the day). The Croats pulled one back with 3:29 remaining but an action goal from Gavazzi with 1:24 to go gave the Italians a bit happier ending of this tournament.

Game 70, 12.00, for places 5-6: Turkey vs. Montenegro 13-14 (after penalty)
Quarters: 4-3, 3-3, 1-2, 2-2 – penalties: 3-4

Referees: Iniesta (ESP), Kun (HUN)

TURKEY: Emirham Ozdemir, Engin Ege Colak 2, Yordan Yordanoglu, Atamer Albayrak 2, Safak Simsek, Anil Yaman, Davud Sutcuoglu, Atakan Destici, Kaan Baskaya 3, Sertan Gectan 3, Cemil Bahadir Ozbakis, Kaan Ozden Yildiz, Burak Banda. Head coach: Mehmet Alp Olcaytu.
MONTENEGRO: Milos Konatar, Marko Konatar, Bogdan Durdic 5, Petar Cetkovic, Vlado Popadic, Stefan Pjesivac 1, Aleksa Ukropina 2, Janko Krivokrapic 1, Dimitrije Krijestorac 1, Danilo Adzic, Nikola Moskov, Nicolas Saveljic, Arsenije Stanovic. Head coach: Mirko Vicevic.

Turkey: 2 for 8
Montenegro: 1 for 8

Turkey: 1 for 1
Montenegro: –

It was an intense and also really tense game with both coaches receiving a yellow card, the Turkish assistant coach got a red and towards the end a Montenegrin player was also ejected from the match. For some reasons this was understandable as both sides produced rollercoaster performances. At the beginning the Turks sat in the driving seat, led 4-3 after the first period but the Montenegrins scored twice in 58 seconds early in the second and held the lead for a while. The Turks hit back later, now they netted two in 48 seconds for 7-6 while the Montenegrins missed connecting man-ups before the middle break. However, they stunned the hosts by scoring twice again, this time in a span of 20 seconds, still, Pjesivac levelled the score again (8-8). The rest of this quarter brought missed man-ups in succession – two apiece – and the Montenegrins couldn’t convert a third one soon after the start of the fourth. However, they managed to score an action goal and when Durdic crowned his day by his fifth goal of the match and Montenegro led 8-10 with 51 seconds to go few expected any more excitement. But 10 seconds later the Turks got a penalty, Baskaya sent it home and with another goal from Colak with 2 seconds remaining on the clock the Turks forced the penalty shootout! However, it just postponed their defeat: they had two misses (the first and the fourth), their opponents one (the fourth) so the Montenegrins clinched the fifth place. In fact, they remained unbeaten in the regular time of the games (5 wins and 2 draws), but lost their quarter final also in a shootout and that cost them a possible medal.

Game 71, 18.00, Bronze medal game: Russia vs. Serbia 11-9 (after penalty)
Quarters: 1-1, 2-2, 2-1, 2-3 – penalties: 4-2

Referees: Uz (TUR), Bartels (AUS)

RUSSIA: Vitaly Statsenko, Vladislav Zaytsev, Vasily Egorov 1, Daniil Merkulov 1, Vladimir Zaikin 1, Ivan Gusarov, Vladislav Egorov 1, Denis Kolbenov, Arsian Zakhirov 3, Konstantin Kharkov, Adel Giniatov, Andrei Balakirev, Iurii Poliukov. Head coach: Vladimir Fedorin.
SERBIA: Alen Osmanovic, Aleksa Petrovski 1, Filip Jankovic, Filip Radojevic 1, Nebojsa Toholj, Ivan Gvozdanovic, Radomir Draskovic 1, Aleksandar Andrejevic, Nemanja Bakic, Marko Manojlovic 2, Ognjen Stojanovic 1, Borislav Jovanovic 1, Radoslav Filipovic. Head coach: Vladimir Vujasinovic.

Russia: 1 for 8
Serbia: 5 for 12

Russia: 1 for 1
Serbia: –

After a balanced opening period – which saw one goal apiece and two missed extras at both ends – the Serbs scored two connecting goals for 1-3 but then they fell apart a bit. The Russians pulled one back soon, equalised before the middle break and added two more goals deep into the third so they staged a 4-0 run. The Serbs needed 10:36 minutes to score again but still trailed 5-4 before the last period. Radojevic netted a 6 on 5 at the beginning of the fourth for 5-5, but in the middle of that quarter Egorov and Zakirov scored fine action goals for 7-5. Soon the Russians denied a Serb man-up and they seemed to be on the winning track. However, the Serbs showed something special in the finish: they converted an extra in three seconds with 0:48 remaining and made another one in 7 seconds when only 10 seconds were left, thus forcing the shootout. But that didn’t bring them luck: they missed the third and fourth attempts, the Russians put all four away so they managed to clinch the bronze medal – the first podium finish for a Russian water polo men team at FINA events since the seniors earned the Olympic bronze back in 2004. They could thank that – partly – to their mental strength as they won the shootouts against the Croatians in the quarters and against the Serbs for the bronze. On the contrary, the Serbs won their first five matches but lost the last two (the semi final and the bronze contest) by penalties so they missed the podium at the end.

Game 72, 19.30, Final: Hungary vs. Spain 10-8 (after penalty)
Quarters: 1-0, 1-3, 1-1, 2-1 – penalties: 5-3

Referees: Putnikovic (SRB), Severo (ITA)

HUNGARY: Soma Vogel, Viktor Vadovics 1, Kristof Szejf Kiss 2, Kristof Szatmari, Frank Pellei, Oliver Hornyak 1, Adam Nagy, Erik Csacsovszky, Krisztian Manhercz, Simon Vogel, Kristof Toth, Peter Lovas 1, Benedek Molnar. Head coach: Gyorgy Horkai.
SPAIN: Miquel Linares, Sergi Cabanas 2, Bruno Navajas, Marc Corbalan 1, Xavier Serra, Agusti Perilas, Borja Fenoy 2, Miquel Gasulla, Roger Tahull, Pol Barbena, Guillem Garcia, Alejandro Bustos, David Allon. Head coach: David Martin.

Hungary: 3 for 9
Spain: 0 for 6


Hungarian team right after the final game - credit: Hungary Water Polo
The Hungarian team right after the Final game - credit: Hungary Water Polo

The two sides have already clashed in this tournament, they settled for a 6-6 draw with the Hungarians producing a remarkable comeback in the last minute. And the final was the same: again it brought a tie (5-5) but now it was decision time.

The Magyars got the better start, Kiss put away a 6 on 5 after two and a half minutes – this was the only goal of the opening period. The Spanish arrived to the match in the second, hit twice in succession, later the Magyars equalised but with 26 seconds to go until the middle break Fenoy scored for 2-3. And with 25 seconds into the fourth the Spaniards went 2-4 up with a fine action goal from Cabanas. A desperate fight ensued: both sides had three man-ups apiece in the following minutes, had the Spaniards scored first they would have built a three-goal lead but the Hungarian defence withstood the pressure, their goalie, Soma Vogel came up with some huge saves again.

Finally the Magyars stroke first, breaking their ‘silence’ after 9:55 minutes: Hornyak’s long-range shot found the back of the net. Then they managed to convert a 6 on 5 with a set-up never applied before and 41 seconds later Kiss put them ahead for the first time since they led 1-0. Exactly 4:00 minutes were left, an extraordinary battle followed, the refs didn’t want to push either sides so no more exclusions were called. But the Spaniards could still score: it was Fenoy again, 66 seconds from time for 5-5! What’s more they created a fine opportunity in the dying seconds but the ball hit the cross-bar. So here came the penalty shootout again! That was good news for the Spanish squad: they won against Montenegro in the quarters and against the Serbs in the semis so this was their third shootout in three days. But it was also true that on this final day the teams equalising in the end couldn’t transform the psychological advantage into a victory (the Turks and the Serbs both lost).

When Vogel stopped Serra’s attempt right at the beginning some recalled: the first miss became decisive in three previous shootouts in the tournament. And it happened again. The Hungarians netted one after the other, the Spaniards also scored the following three, the fifth round started at 4-3 when Kiss came up next. And the hero of the match – he scored twice – was up to the task, he sent the ball home so the Magyars could start the celebrations. They tossed their head coach Gyorgy Horkai (Olympic champion in 1976) to the pool – and also continued the Magyars’ recent success story: after the senior team clinched the world title in 2013 in Barcelona now the U18 side made the same feat.