Hungary and Croatia proceeded to stake their claims for the quarterfinals, Hungary gaining its third win with a 10-8 defeat of United States of America, while Croatia inflicted Olympic champion Serbia’s second loss at Tokyo 2020, winning 14-12. Croatia’s win lifted it out of the danger zone of the “Group of Death” and World Cup silver medallist Australia and Kazakhstan miss the top eight. Japan and South Africa are the unlucky two in Group A.
Hungary took a third win from four matches to temporarily lead Group A, downing United States of America 10-8.
Both teams are safely through to the quarterfinals as the top four were decided on Thursday with winless Japan and South Africa not in a position to lift into quarterfinal contention.
Close as the result may seem, it can lie. USA controlled the match for much of the second quarter, although Hungary took over a few minutes from halftime and was never equalled, let along headed. It kept USA scoreless for more than 11 minutes. USA led 4-3 until late in the first half, then six unanswered goals by Hungary set the seal on the match.
USA played some beautiful water polo at times and was easily equal to Hungary, but the Hungarians have a greater sense of history and some relatively easy (not closely marked) goals proved costly in the end. By leading 9-4, with a Denes Varga penalty goal, early in the fourth quarter, Hungary had achieved its target.
USA had other thoughts and went on a scoring spree of its own, pulling three back — through Alex Obert at centre forward, Luca Cupido off a cross pass to the left post on extra-man attack and Hannes Daube with a brilliant sweeping shot from deep left for 9-7. Krisztian Manhercz put the full stop on Hungary’s effort from deep left at 1:47, regaining the three-goal margin — and then Bowen book-ended his team’s showing with a blast from the top for a more respectable 10-8 scoreline. USA showed that it will be a true contender in the finals series if it can place all its jigsaw into place.
“It was a very tight game, like every time we play against USA. I'm satisfied because we managed to put pressure on them throughout and were very concentrated in defence."
Manhercz finished with three goals, giving him 10 goes at Tokyo 2020 and 18 Olympic goals. Marton Vamos and Varga gathered two each.
USA takes on Greece and Hungary faces Italy in the jockeying for group rankings on Monday.
Match 24, 14:00, Group A, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 8 HUNGARY 10
Quarters: 1-2, 3-3, 0-3, 4-1
Referees: Xevi Buch (ESP), Arkadiy Voevodin (RUS).
Shots: USA: 8/31. HUN: 11/31 .
Extra Man: USA: 5/16. HUN: 4/13.
Pens: HUN: 1/1.
Dejan Udovicic (USA) — Head Coach
"I think our problems started in the second quarter. We kicked ourselves as we didn't score from our man-up chances. They are the European champions. If you don't convert your chances, they're going to punish you, and that’s exactly what happened. On Ben Hallock’s dominance at centre forward for USA: “Ben Hallock is the best centre forward in the world.”
Alex Obert (USA) — Goal Scorer
“We obviously talked about our plan before the game. We weren’t crisp on extra man, we lost rhythm on this. There is a lot of room for improvement, which is a good thing. Now we play against Greece (Monday) and then the quarterfinals (Wednesday). If we make these changes we will be good for the quarterfinals.”
GROUP B: CROATIA-SERBIA — 14-12
Croatia was fighting for its Olympic survival when facing reigning Olympic champion Serbia in their Group B clash.
By beating Serbia 14-12, it assured the 2012 champion a berth in the Tokyo 2020 quarterfinals, booting Australia out of the competition, alongside Kazakhstan. Neither of the two latter teams have the opportunity to get into the top four. Australia beat Croatia 11-8 on the second day and stood a chance of making the top eight should Croatia not win a point today.
he fact that Croatia left it so late to qualify for the quarters was indicative of its play this year, only just eclipsing Russia in a protracted penalty shootout at the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands in February. That victory clinched the 12th and final spot for Tokyo 2020.
Croatia was never headed today and raced to a 3-0 opening statement, allowed one Serbian goal and then pushed the scoreboard to 5-1. The fifth goal was a little controversial in that Paulo Obradovic’s shot appeared to transverse the goal-line from left to right and not quite cross, according to the overhead camera. However, VAR is more exacting and the goal was awarded.
That goal stung Serbia into a frenzy of goal-scoring, with Olympic champion Dusko Pijetlovic, in his 456th international, scoring his 37th Olympic goal — from four Olympics — sopening the floodgates. Fellow champion Filip Filipovic added two more and at 5-4, Serbia was back in the match.
Obradovic and Ante Vukicevic dragged it out to 7-4. Nikola Jaksic scored a pair on extra-man attack and it was at one goal again. Maro Jokovic, who scored Croatia’s first two goals, netted a third before Dusan Mandic and Stefan Mitrovic levelled at 8-8.
“We played a beautiful and strong game against Serbia. The win means we have qualified for the quarterfinals and this was the first objective for us."
Croatia steadied its ship and Obradovic (2) and Luka Bukic (3) had their team at 13-9 with just a lone Serbian goal to Sava Randelovic — 13-9.
Jokovic scored his fourth before being fouled out; Croatian head coach Ivica Tucak was yellow-carded and Andrija Prlainovic and Strahinja Rasovic (2) closed the match with three Serbian goals for 14-12.
It was too late and not enough and frustrated head coach Dejan Savic, lamenting the high number of opposition goals.
Croatian goalkeeper Marko Bijac, playing his 100th international, was in dynamic form with a magical 15 saves, in a match that really mattered. He will remember this day for the rest of his life.
This match enjoyed the largest crowd of the competition with a big contingent of Serbian and Croatian supporters.
Croatia will close its group campaign against the front-running Spain on Monday and Serbia will play Montenegro — both enticing matches.
Match 21, 15:30, Group B, CROATIA 14 SERBIA 12
Quarters: 5-3, 1-1, 4-4, 4-4
Referees: Michael Goldenberg (USA), Michiel Zwart (NED).
Shots: CRO: 14/29. SRB: 12/34.
Extra Man: CRO: 6/10. SRB: 8/19.
Pens: SRB: 1/1.
Marko Bijac — Goalkeeper in 100th International
“It was a very difficult game. Serbia is a great team. But I think we played a very, very good game today, even better than we did last time against Montenegro. We deserved the victory today. Serbia is Olympic champion and whoever beats them, it means that the team is on the right way. But this is still the group phase and the most important things are ahead of us.”
Dejan Savic (SRB) — Head Coach
“Bad beginning and the worst ending. We had a little bit of confusion in our defence. I don't remember when the Serbian team ever conceded 14 goals. We can only analyse and prepare for Montenegro (Monday) and see who we can meet in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals are the worst and most important game of the Olympic Games.