Spain came from the almost impossible position of five goals down for 8-8 against Montenegro to force a shootout and win 12-10. Spain took Group A honours ahead of Montenegro and Serbia blew Australia away in the final quarter for a 14-7 victory — its first win here —and third place. United States of America took out world No 2 Italy 13-9 in the Group B decider and France collected third spot, beating winless Canada 12-8.
Group A: Spain 8, Montenegro 4, Serbia 3, Australia 3.
Group B: USA 7, Italy 6, France 5, Canada 0.
Day 4 quarter-final schedule:
14:00 SRB v ITA
16:00 ESP v CAN
18:00 AUS v USA
20:00 MNE v FRA
MONTENEGRO 10 SPAIN 12 in penalty shootout (FT: 8-8. Pens 2-4)
In a feat seldom seen at the elite level, Spain came from 7-2 down early in the third quarter to level the match at eight apiece inside the final minute and go to the shootout, which it won 4-2. It was a remarkable match in which Montenegro was dominant in the first half, leading 2-0 early before heading into the second quarter at 2-1. Three consecutive Vasilije Radovic goals helped lift Montenegro to 6-2 before halftime. The margin shifted to five at the top of the third before Spain started responding. Roger Tahull struck from two metres and Francisco Valera drilled one from the top for 7-4. Kanstantsin Averka made it 8-4 on counter, which proved to be Montenegro’s last throw of the dice, and this at the midway point of the third period. Sergi Cabanas scored either side of the last break for 8-6, bouncing in his second. Nikolas Paul sent in a missile from eight metres at 3:45 and Alberto Barroso converted extra-man attack from deep left for 8-8 at 0:47, which was enough for the shootout. Spain went first and the first five goals found home. Then the next three were missed and it was left to Barroso, with his team’s fifth attempt, to seal the match 12-10.
Barroso, with his last-minute equaliser and ultimately the match-winning penalty, was the star of the match, finishing with three goals. Montenegro’s goalkeeper, Petar Tesanovic, made a magnificent 12 saves in goal.
Shutting Montenegro out of the scoring for the last 12 minutes was where this match was all about.
Stats don’t lie
Montenegro had the better of the extra-man attack with four from six compared to Spain’s two from three. Both teams shot just 23 times, so it was really a close affair all round. It came down to who could convert the penalties better.
Spain survived a penalty shootout to win the world championship gold-medal final against Italy and now it survived Montenegro’s best. The leading team and the only unbeaten team in Strasbourg, Spain now must look forward to the quarter-finals and what glory lies ahead. Montenegro dragged itself off the bottom rung with the shootout loss earning a valuable point, thus finishing one point ahead of Australia, who won their encounter on day two.
SERBIA 14 AUSTRALIA 7
Serbia used its superior strength and skills, coupled with a shutout final quarter to defeat the Aussie Sharks 14-7. The 5-0 final quarter blew out the score in what was a close encounter until the final break. It was a match in which eight penalty fouls were awarded — and all converted — except the imbalance showed that Serbia grabbed six and Australia two. The match was locked at one, two, three and four by the top of the second quarter. Serbia scored three straight for 7-4 by halftime. The third quarter belonged to Australia 3-2 and at 9-7 an interesting final eight minutes was in the offing. However, Serbia stepped up for its first win, shutting down every Aussie attack and making sure of five goals.
Marko Radulovic and Gavril Subotic scored three each, the former netting the first two and the latter claiming the only Serbian goals of the third period. Subotic fired in the winner with a six-metre slider. Aussie co-captain Blake Edwards scored three of his team’s first five goals.
The shutout in the final quarter. Serbia always looked the goods once it took control late in the first quarter and the final burst showed what it is capable of should it get past Italy in Monday’s quarter-finals.
Stats don’t lie
It was penalties that almost decided the match and six to two proved a huge difference. Serbia converted two from five on extra-man attack to Australia’s two from seven. Overall, Serbia shot 34 times to Australia’s 28.
Serbia is starting to get its combinations together ahead of the final three matches, but a scorned Italy awaits as the next obstacle. Australia finished fourth, thanks to Montenegro’s shootout loss to Spain — earning a point —and now has the mountainous task of tackling Group B winner United States of America on Monday.
ITALY 9 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 13
USA dominated Italy from the start with a 2-0 lead, allowed the world No 2 back to 2-2 and then swam away with the match. These two teams played a three-match series in California the week before Strasbourg and USA ended 2-1, including a last-match penalty-shootout win. USA had the form and the measure of Italy and used it to excellent effect to secure the group win. From 2-2, the margin stretched to 6-2 and this proved enough to cement the victory. At 7-5 early in the third quarter, Italy had some hope, but this was extinguished as USA won the period 5-2. Italy did not give up and won the final quarter 3-2 and had a penalty blocked, showing it still had plenty to offer.
Ben Stevenson scored three of USA’s first six goals and was named player of the match. Seven team-mates also made the scoresheet. For Italy, Luca Damonte and Francesco Condemi scored twice. Both goalkeepers — Marco Del Lungo (ITA) and Adrian Weinberg (USA) — stopped 11 shots.
The four-goal advantage to go from 2-2 to 6-2. It set the tone of the match and gave USA the impetus to cruise to victory.
Stats don’t lie
USA had the more economical extra-man count at four from six compared to Italy’s four from nine. USA took two more shots and the percentage scoring of 43% to 32% proved the point.
USA is poised for something better and could possibly dream of something better than the three silvers and one bronze it has amassed at Super Finals. Italy has the huge task of surpassing the resurgent Serbia in the quarter-finals.
CANADA 8 FRANCE 12
France would love to make it through the quarter-finals to the medal round and showed again today that it has the determination to make that dream a possibility. It took a huge final-quarter effort to shake off Canada, who remains winless. For the first three quarters it was anyone’s match with the score tied at one, two and three in the first period. France slipped out to 5-3 and turned at 5-4. The third period was tit for tat, going into the final spell at 8-7 ahead for the host nation. Canada struggled to find the net as France defended stoutly and scored a pair in the middle stages for a three-goal advantage. Bogdan Djerkovic, who scored the 8-7 goal from the centre-forward position at the end of the third period, steered in an aerial ball on extra from the right-post position for 10-8 at 1:50, offering some hope, However, a Roman Marion Vernoux deep shot on extra-man attack lifted the margin to three and Emil Bjorch finalised the scoring with a brilliant, manoeuvring goal into two metres for 12-8 two seconds from time.
The two goals at the top of the fourth quarter that allowed France to free up and then the last two goals for the icing on the cake.
Stats don’t lie
France was perfect on the extra situation with three goals while Canada struggled, managing just one from six attempts. France had 34 shots to Canada’s 29, which proved crucial to the win.
France finished with five points for third spot in the group and the penalty-shootout victory over group winner USA puts its status more into perspective come the final three days. Could a major upset be on the cards? Hometown support will be needed for the quarter-final clash with Montenegro. Canada will face the unbeaten world champion Spain — a most daunting task.