Three days, three thunderstorms in Belgrade at the FINA Men's Water Polo World League Super Final. At least on the last day of the prelims no game had to be halted, only the evening session was delayed. And as a reward from Mother Nature, a beautiful rainbow painted the sky above the Tasmajdan pool while the teams were battling for their ranks which determined the pairings in the quarters. Spain and Serbia finished atop in the respective groups while Hungary and Croatia came second, so the four European powerhouses booked the top positions. It's yet to be seen though whether they all could make the semis, Hungary may have the toughest challenge while clashing with Australia.
In the first game of the day Croatia managed to recover after the tough battle against Serbia, at least they could gear up for the third period when they netted five goals in succession while killed four man-downs and that was decisive. This put the Croats to the second place while the Aussies finished second.
The Aussies (pictured: Edwards Lachlan) had only one weaker period but that cost them the game - Credits: Istvan Derencsenyi
Hungary and Japan produced an equal match for three periods, though as time went by the Magyars seemed to have more control on the game. In the fourth it became visible on the score-board too as they netted four connecting goals. Toni Nemet was outstanding, he hit 5 as his team claimed its first regular time win and claimed the second place in Group A.
Japan had some fine moments but the Hungarians were superior at the end
The third game started 45min later then scheduled due to a thunderstrom which had become a traditional feature during this event... A full rainbow welcomed the teams but for a while it was the nicest thing around the Tasmajdan Pool as the Spaniards found it hard to find the right gears against Canada. In the first half they could score only three goals so it stood 3-3 at halftime. Canada showed some heroics again but it looked obvious that as soon as the Europeans geared up it's going to be tough for the Canadians to cope with them. In the first four minutes it happened, Spain netted three in a row but soon Canada could come back by converting back-to-back penalties and trailed 5-7 before the last break. But soon the Spanish left them behind, speeding up and making everything more precisely left the mark on the scoreboard as they won the last period 5-0 and secured the top spot in Group A.
At the end Spain's physical and tactical superiority prevailed
The prelims concluded with a lop-sided contest between Serbia and Kazakhstan. The Olympic champions left no room for any surprise and rushed to a 4-0 lead after eight minutes and were 10-3 up by halftime. The only question remained was whether they could better the Croats' scoring record from the first day (also against Kazakhstan) but at the end it was only equalled as the Serbs also stopped at 20 goals.
The Serbs outplayed their rivals in all fields of the game
Final rankings - prelims
1. Spain 7, 2. Hungary 5, 3. Japan 3, 4. Canada 3
1. Serbia 9, 2. Croatia 6, 3. Australia 3, 4. Kazakhstan 0
15.00 Hungary v Australia
16.45 Japan v Croatia
19.15 Spain v Kazakhstan
21.00 Serbia v Canada