Olympic silver medallist Greece, inspired by Konstantinos Kakaris, came through with two solid bursts to defeat Croatia 9-7 for the FINA World Championship bronze medal at the Alfred Hajos Swimming Pool on Margaret Island on Sunday. In the earlier match, Hungary took out seventh position with an 8-6 margin over Montenegro.
Classification 3-4 — Budapest
GREECE 9 CROATIA 7
Greece was seventh in Gwangju 2019 and now it sits at third with a bronze medal, which was thoroughly deserved. The victory was built on a slow first quarter in which only one goal was scored. Greece then sent the match to 4-1 before Croatia awoke. This became 5-3 as the match heated up and Croatia had a penalty shot blocked. Luka Bukic opened the third period and Croatia was now just one goal in arrears. Then struck Konstantinos Kakaris — for the third time — accepting a cross pass to the far post on extra to score. So excited was Greek head coach Theo Vlachos that he was awarded a yellow card. That goal spurred Greece to 8-4. Croatia scored either side of the final break and, after a timeout each, Konstantinos Genidounias had his shot inspected by VAR before it was awarded at 2:15 for 9-6. Greece started celebrating in and out of the water before Croatia had one last chance to impress, Josip Vrilic scoring from the deep right at 0:24, but it was too late. Greece had the bronze — one step lower than Tokyo 2020 but five steps up the ladder from Gwangju 2019. Greece was also playing without the services of No 1 goalkeeper Emmanouil Zerdevas (left arm in a sling) and Alexandros Papanastasiou (broken nose from Friday’s 11-10 semifinal loss to Italy). Zerdevas sat on the bench, but Papanastasiou has a plaster cast on his face and watched from the stands.
No marks for knowing that Kakaris was awarded the trophy for his three goals and ability to earn ejections. Bukic was the only double scorer for Croatia.
Greece’s 4-0 start; Croatia dragging four back for 5-4 down; and then Greece sending in another three straight for 8-4, which proved to be the brutal assault that led to bronze.
Stats don’t lie
Greece was tidy at six from nine on extra compared to Croatia’s poor five from 17.
Greece was a compact unit, which could still operate with two stars down. Greece deserved to claim the metal, especially with two of its stars sidelined.
What they said
Theodoros Vlachos (GRE) — Head Coach
“We had an almost perfect game. We controlled the game from the beginning, created good chances and we utilised them perfectly. I think we deserved to win today and have left Budapest with a smile on our faces. Winning a medal in a championship is a really great thing. Before this tournament I was expecting to fight for the medal, and my players believed in themselves and now the podium is a fact, no longer just an expectation.”
Angelos Vlachopoulos (GRE) — Goal Scorer
“I am feeling really good right now. Today we missed two players, so it was tough. But we had a great day, we played with heart, so I think we deserved this victory. We prepared for this game mentally first and foremost. That’s why we won this match, and that's what we missed in the group stage. Croatia also played well, but we were better — sport is just like this.”
Jure Marelja (CRO) — Assistant Coach
“I think the final result is very good if we saw how we started this game. We didn’t score for maybe a quarter and half. That shows there was some mistake in our concentration. We need to improve for the European Championship, but these players only need a good lesson. They all play in very good clubs, so they just need to go though in this kind of tough situations.”
Andrija Basic (CRO) — Athlete
“It was hard to play today. Not because of the semifinal result, but our approach to this game at the beginning was really awful. I think our game was not worth the bronze medal today. We came here to claim a medal, so I am not satisfied right now, no matter how we played before, these two games counted only. We didn’t manage to win any of them, so we go home disappointed.”
HUNGARY 8 MONTENEGRO 6
The result between these two teams on the first day of group play was 12-8 to Hungary so today’s scoreline was a slight improvement for Montenegro. It was tight to start with, Hungary leading 1-0 at the quarter after a score at 2:20. Two quick goals had Hungary 3-0 ahead in the second and then moved to 5-2 by halftime. Hungary had a 2-1 advantage in the third, slipped out to 8-3 with the seventh place firmly in its grip. Croatia had different thoughts and scored three goals, but the lateness of the charge assured the host nation of a winning finish to what was a disappointing tournament. Hungary won its group, had a slender loss to Italy in the quarter-finals and then suffered the ignominy of a penalty-shootout loss to United States of America. Montenegro lost to Hungary, Beat Georgia, Brazil and Japan before dipping to Spain by a single goal in the quarters and then went down to Serbia by three. Hungary was fourth at the last edition in Gwangju and was the bronze medallist last year at Tokyo 2022. For Montenegro, eighth is a two-step better outcome from Gwangju.
Probably Hungarian goalkeeper Marton Levai who made 10 saves in a full match at this level. Team-mates Gergo Zalanky and Adam Nagy scored twice each. Montenegro had three double scorers in Dusan Matkovic, Kanstantsan Averka and Miroslav Perkovic.
Hungary going from 4-2 in the second quarter to 8-3 at the start of the fourth.
Stats don’t Lie
The extra-man count was low with Hungary managing two from four and Montenegro two from seven.
Hungary was on the verge of going to the finals, except for the hiccup matches against Italy and USA. Montenegro was thereabouts and should be relatively happy with being in the top eight considering the changes made to its teams and others. These are uncertain times.
What they said
Tamas Marcz (HUN) — Head Coach
“First of all, I want to say thanks to the people for coming here to support us, not just today, but during the last two weeks, as well. It isn’t easy to play for the seventh position here, at home. I am absolutely responsible for this situation, there is no question and I am sorry for that. But I also have to say, the conditions before the championship were not so easy for us and it was hard to hold everything together and all of us on a high level. We didn’t do our jobs well, something went missing, but now we could see some flare at the end of the game.”
Denes Varga (HUN) — Captain
“We couldn’t rise to the occasion, which the Italians did in the quarter-final. They were collected and more precise than us. I think we don’t need to spare more words for the remaining games because these were not decisive. In the last two games we fought and did everything we could. Against the USA it wasn’t enough, but right now fortunately it was. At least we finished this tournament with little joy.”
Vladimir Gojkovic (MNE) — Head Coach
“The first game was much more important than the one today. Hungary came here with a lot of superiority in quality and they were on fire to prove something to their supporters after they had lost the quarter-final. Congrats to Hungary. We need to analyse our games and continue to improve, because we are a very young team and still have to work a lot. For some of our players this was the first or second international competition; some of them had an important role for the first time. After going through the experience they got here, they will be better players immediately.”
Petar Tesanovic (MNE) — Goalkeeper
“This match was not similar to the game at the group stage. That went for the first place in the group and this was for the seventh place in the championship. We have less motivation, so it was tough to find any mental advantage for this game. But we are a young team and have to play all games with 100 per cent dedication. It was hard and now we finished like this. We were coming here with high expectations and wanted to win every game, but the result is maybe the reality. Not so good, not so bad.”