Defending Olympic champion Serbia subdued world champion Italy 10-6 in their men’s water polo quarterfinal, built on a mesmerising 9-3 halftime lead. It was Italy’s first loss at Tokyo 2020 following three wins and two draws. In the fourth quarterfinal, Hungary had by far the better of Croatia 15-11 with Krisztian Manhercz scoring an incredible seven goals and Viktor Nagy made and equally brilliant 14 saves. In Friday’s semifinals, Serbia will face Spain and Hungary will take on Greece.
August 4 Semifinal Schedule:
Match 35, 14:00, MONTENEGRO v CROATIA
Match 37, 15:30, GREECE v HUNGARY
Match 36, 16:20, ITALY v UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Match 38, 19:50, SERBIA v SPAIN
Defending champion Serbia has booked a men’s water polo semifinal clash with unbeaten Spain on Friday after a dominant 10-6 victory over world champion Italy at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre.
It was crashingly simple: Win the first quarter with a decent margin, increased it by halftime and maintain the imbalance for as long as possible. In this case, just until 7:22pm. By making it 9-3 at halftime, the distance was too far even for Italy who came back from the death three times at Tokyo 2020.
Compared to the two previous quarterfinals, this was all scoring action with Serbia making the early statement with five goals. Italy responded with two thanks to Nicholas Presciutti. Strahinja Rasovic sent in two, including a slider from nine metres out. The most interesting shot was from Filip Filipovic who seemed to throw the ball away in the direction of the goal as the clock ticked down. The ball slid and slithered to the goal-line and Marco Del Lungo allowed it to go under his arm. He turned, picked it up and played it downfield. The referee decided to utilise the VAR equipment and, surprisingly, found the ball had indeed crossed the line. VAR was proving most popular today.
The second quarter was contrasting with no goal in the first four minutes before Serbian head coach Dejan Savic went to a timeout. This was more to rest his players than decide any tactics. However, Serbia gained the extra-man attack and Dusan Mandic netted his second with his deadly left arm. Filipovic followed up with a 10m shot for 7-2 with the two deadly left-handers combining for four goals. Niccolo Figari scored Italy’s third goal, 12 minutes after the second. Andrija Prlainovic, playing his fifth Olympic Games, drained two shots, the first from nine metres and the second from the top on extra, 53 seconds apart and the second just three seconds from halftime. They were Prlainovic’s 38th and 39th Olympic goals in his 331st international.
The third period was a stabilising one for Serbia, trying to contain a desperate Italy, who scored the only score of the period — Stefano Luongo’s extra-man conversion from the deep left. Sava Randelovic had a chance to smash in another, but Del Lungo smacked it down at 1:14.
Francesco Di Fulvio rifled a shot over the left shoulder of the awesome Branislav Mitrovic for 9-5 at the top of the fourth and Filipovic, lifted the small Serbian crowd — actually big for Tokyo 2020 — his third of the match and 53rd Olympic goal.
Branislav Mitrovic had a spectacular match with 15 saves, many from close-in shots. Those saves were equal to the best goals. Del Lungo was no slouch himself, knocking down 11 balls.
Italy will play United States of America in the Classification 5-8 semifinals on Friday.
Match 32, 18:200, ITALY 6 SERBIA 10
Quarters: 2-5,1-4, 1-0, 2-1
Referees: Arkadiy Voevodin (ROC), Georgios Stavridis (GRE).
Shots: ITA: 6/33. SRB: 10/30.
Extra Man: ITA: 5/16. SRB: 3-7.
Andrija Prlainovic (SRB) — Two Goals
“We played our best game this tournament and maybe the best game in three years. We have been preparing for this part of the tournament and we’re in a good place at this moment. Psychologically we started so good and scored five goals and received two in the first quarter. (Branislav) Mitrovic was good today. He is a great goalie.”
Sandro Campagna (ITA) — Head Coach
“We played well on extra man and not so well on man down. We gave away easy goals and six down (at halftime) was too much. (Serbian goalkeeper Branislav) Mitrovic played well and out shooters could have shot better. I am bitte because we could have been better. We offered Serbia a gold plate in the match.”
Pietro Figlioli (ITA) — Captain
“I don’t think we performed to our capacity. Serbia demonstrated it’s on the ball for the finals. The score speaks for itself at halftime (9-3). We struggled a bit early in our matches here. It’s hard to get back. We will analyse it and get ready to go forward.”
QUARTERFINAL: HUNGARY 15 CROATIA 11
Hungary will hope to improve on fifth place at Rio 2016 and rekindle the golden years of 2000-2008 when it takes on Greece in Friday’s semifinals of the men’s water polo competition at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre.
Hungary put paid to 2012 champion Croatia’s chances of a Rio 2016 final replay with Serbia. Croatia qualified for the 12th and final berth via the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam last February in an amazing penalty shootout with the Russian Olympic Committee.
Pencil in the name of Krisztian Manhercz (pictured), or better still, etch his name in marble at the Hajos Alfred Pool on Margaret Island in Budapest, as all world of Olympic champions are. With nine Olympic titles is this Hungary’s time to make it 10?
Manhercz was sensational and unbridled in his passion to see Hungary in the semifinals, scoring an amazing seven goals from eight attempts.
Hungary’s sublime performance was constructed on a 5-3 second quarter and a three-goal advantage heading in the final eight minutes.
Croatia held a slender first-quarter lead and Hungary, punched out a fantastic second quarter, taking to 5-2 for a 7-5 advantage. The early success was gained through the arm of Manhercz who scored the first, third, fourth and fifth goals. The last needed to level with Croatia who stole the lead at 5-4 through Luka Bukic, who also netted Croatia’s second goal. The voluble Hungarian spectators made up for the lack of public at these fantastic Games.
The Daniels struck for Hungary — Angyal and Varga — to close the half at 7-5.
Croatia received nothing from its timeout early in the third period. What it did get was a gift when Bukic blasted from deep left and the ball appeared not to go over the line, creasing the left post. VAR stepped in and a quick dissection of the shot brought up a goal and 7-6. Gergo Zalanki regained the two-goal difference from deep right only for Croatia to draw level through Paulo Obradovic who snapped in rebound of a Maro Jokovic shot and Lovre Milos from the deep left. Manhercz struck again for 9-8 on extra and Balazs Erdelyi climbed high at centre forward to take a pass and score for 10-8. Marton Vamos converted extra and Hungary had an almost-unassailable 11-8 lead just two seconds from the final break.
That man Manhercz scored a six-metre goal for his sixth; Loren Fatovic responded on extra, Vamos netted a second and Luka Loncar scored from two metres for 13-10.
Marko Macan gained his marching orders from the team bench and soon after, who else but Manhercz netted his seventh
from deep left on extra replied as the score shifted to 14-11, Croatia struggling to peg back the difference. Hungarian goalkeeper Viktor Nagy was just awesome, making a stunning 14 saves, the perfect accompaniment to Manhercz.
Szilard Jansik converted a penalty to closed the scoring and the match in Hungary’s favour — 15-11.
Hungary is headed to the medal round and Croatia is off to the Classification 5-8 semifinals.
Match 33, 19:50, HUNGARY 15 CROATIA 11
Quarters: 2-3, 5-2, 4-3, 4-3
Referees: Sebastien Dervieux (FRE), Frank Ohme (GER).
Shots: HUN: 15/30. CRO: 11/34.
Extra Man: HUN: 7/13. CR: 9/18.
Pens: HUN: 1/1.
Tamas Marcz (HUN) — Head Coach
“There were a couple of scripts in my head, this was one of those. The refs made quick calls, they were fair, whistled what they saw and acted immediately — that created a high-paced game and I think our stamina was better; we had more left in our tank as the game went by. It was a team effort, though Viktor Nagy came up with some huge saves and Krisztian Manhercz was on fire, too. Indeed, before the game I asked him to take 3-4 precise shots and score at least 2-3 goals. He ended up 7 for 8; this happens when someone didn’t listen at the math class in the school (laughs). Against Croatia it’s not enough to have good defending, you also have to overshoot them in front as in such a high-intensity match it’s inevitable that they could also net 10 or more goals, which usually does not mark a fine defensive work, but they are great in offence, so we were still OK by holding them on 11 today.”
Krisztian Manhercz (HUN) — Seven Goals
“I only hope this wasn’t the game of my life as we have four more days to play here and we are only in the semifinal. Ever since we lost the quarterfinal in Rio, we were preparing for this day as we all know that in each tournament it’s the quarterfinal which is perhaps the most crucial match, especially at the Olympics. We learned that in 2016 and I think today we were ready for the challenge. I wouldn’t highlight my performance as it was really a team effort. Of course, after a while I felt that today I should not restrict myself and I may let the ball fly a bit more than usual — but again, this was just a contribution for the team from my side; we played a fantastic defence, that had more weight than my goals.”
Denes Varga (HUN) — Captain
“We have been preparing ourselves to be in top shape for the knockout phase and especially for this quarterfinal match. I think we succeeded to achieve this since today. Our game kind of came together. A couple of my team-mates managed to ‘arrive’ to the tournament just in time and our defence was clicking to as Viktor (Nagy) was tremendous once more. I’d also say that physically we were superior as the game went by; the Croats had some lucky moments, including that goal called after the video review, then later a rebound — but you could be feeling that they were just chasing us and never came back to equal terms, whatever the scoreboard showed.”
Marton Vamos (HUN — Goal Scorer
“Even though we scored 15 goals, I would highlight our defence as we had to withstand a big pressure since the Croats had so much quality in offence. And you know the good old saying, offences win matches, but defences win titles – and I’m happy that our defensive efforts are getting better and better. Against Italy we already demonstrated that, and, a bit different way, today we were tight in the back, too. Viktor (Nagy) delivered huge saves, man-down, one-on-one, whatever you wished for and our blocks were also there for many times. We are looking forward to playing with Greece, they’ve had a great tournament so far, so it’s going to be a huge clash.”
Ivica Tucak (CRO) — Head Coach
“Congratulations to the Hungarian team. It was the better team today. We tried to do everything but 15 goals in an important game like today is too much. They created attacks and got 15 goals. It was far too much in the quarterfinals of an Olympic Games.”
Maro Jokovic (CRO) — Goal Scorer
“Of course, we’re not happy. I think Hungary had a great game and a high percentage of saves by their goalkeeper with 14 saves. Their external line was very lethal. They deserved this win and I wish them very well in the semifinals.”