Classification 5-6 — Budapest


Even the tournament’s top scorer, Alex Bowen, could not lift USA above Serbia in their play-off for fifth spot in Budapest. The giant shooter scored four times to add to the 17 he already had in the bag. At 21 goals, he was outstanding as he tried to keep USA in the match. Serbia wanted to prove that with its new team it could produce what it set out to do and that was to blood new players and still maintain an image of awesomeness for the coming European Championships and with Paris 2024 imminent. Serbia had to level at one and let USA level at 3-3 by quarter time.  Three straight at the top of the second quarter set the tone for the rest of the time in the water. It became 8-4 and 8-6 by halftime. Serbia went 10-6 ahead at the start of the third quarter and strode into the last at 11-7. Bowen struck twice in the last as USA won the period 3-2, proving that it could be possible for a non-European team to arrive at the dais for the first time — but not this year. USA and Australia have been fourth before, but not anything better. Serbia’s best shooter at Budapest 2022 was Strahinja Rasovic, who had 13 before today and slotted four past USA for 17.

Match heroes
Rasovic with four from seven and Bowen with four from 10. Lazar Dobrozonov dragged down 11 from 15 in his three quarters — a fine achievement at this level.

Turning point
Serbia’s three goals at the top of the second quarter that dug a chasm the width of the Danube into the match.

Stats don’t lie
Serbia had a beautiful six from eight on extra-man attack and USA five from 13 — a huge difference.

Bottom line
Serbia is the two-time Olympic champion and lost seven superstars after Tokyo 2020. The workload on the youngsters was huge and the results were encouraging. USA was just splendid all tournament and played Serbia twice and learnt more than it could have in many years. USA will crack the dais soon, for sure.


What they said
Dejan Savic (SRB) — Head Coach
“After the Olympics, it was a really good thing to see some new nations among the best. We wanted to reach the final, but I think the results mirror the reality, not just today, but for the whole competition, as well. We could be satisfied, but I still have to analyse the matches. If we saw the result today, we could say that it was an important game for my players, so it’s great that we won.”
Nikola Jaksic (SRB) — Athlete
“I am glad that we managed to put ourselves through the tough period after the loss to Croatia. We played a good game against the USA today and first I want to congratulate my mates for this amazing performance. I hope we will learn from our mistakes and get ready to prepare for the European Championship. Of course, I am not satisfied with the fifth place, but after our loss in the quarter-final, at least we reached the best position.”
Dejan Udovicic (USA) — Head Coach
“I think my team has taken a good direction considering that we are the youngest water polo team in the world championship right now. We are trying to improve every day; from that point I am satisfied, but we need to learn from this kind of game. Right now, all we can do is to put ourselves in a good position for the next tournament.”
Alexander Bowen (USA) — Four Goals
“Serbia is a good team; we are younger than them. They have got tons of experience. They were very strong individually and together; the coach leads them very well. I am happy and disappointed at the same time. We played well in some parts, but also messed up a little bit and gave them some easy goals. We are not happy with sixth place, but also this is the best I’ve ever done and we got crucial experiences and we have to grow further.”