Group Standings
Group A: Uzbekistan 2, Croatia 2, Kazakhstan 0, Kuwait 0, Hungary -.
Group B: Australia 2, Netherlands 2, Brazil 0, Turkey 0, Greece -.
Group C: Italy 2, Serbia 2, USA 0, New Zealand 0.
Group D: Spain 2, Montenegro 2, South Africa 0, Canada 0.

Group A

Photos courtesy of Sandic Photography

Croatia held all the cards and swam away with this match, not over-straining itself in the process. Kazakhstan was bewildered and probably needed the match to warm up and improve as the tournament unfolds. Croatia led the periods 6-0, 9-1 and 12-1. Croatia looked sharp, took the counters, the spurting drives into the hole position and the fast passing to get better shooting positions. Three goals came on counter and two from the penalty line. Kazakhstan’s pair came from a short drive and an excellent take on the far left to snap in the shot from an acute angle while defended.

Match heroes
Ivusa Burdelez was named best in water with his three goals from four attempts for Croatia. Team-mate Patrik Kolak went one better with three from three as eight players made the card. Anatoliy Pustovalov converted his two attempts for Kazakhstan. On the extra-man count, Croatia managed two from four while Kazakhstan had no opportunities in the counter-attacking match.

What they said
Ivusa Burdelez (CRO) — Player of the Match
“As we expected, we won this game. The only problem for us is that this game was early, so we needed a bit more time to get into the game, but in the later quarters we got… in our full glory. We are really looking forward to the next game.”
Emil Vilin (KAZ) — Player
Croatia is one of the best water polo countries in Europe. I think we were good, but they were better.“

Uzbekistan had a wonderful start to the tournament with the highest-scoring performance, after a tight 4-3 first period that was tied at one, two and three. The second quarter started the same way with Kuwait coming back for 4-4 and 5-5. All good things must come to an end and Uzbekistan lifted to go into the second half 11-5 up. Uzbekistan countered twice in each of the periods and then went into overdrive in the third with four counter-attack goals for 22-7, doubling its tally. Four more counter goals came in the last as Kuwait wilted, although it netted the last goal, a full 13 minutes since its seventh effort.

Match heroes
Daniil Kivoxijin catapulted his name to the top of the scoring ladder with an incredible 11 goals while Turgunov Shakhzod is second with seven. Mohammad Adulsari worked hard for his four goals. Extra-man goals were a major source of income with Uzbekistan converting both its shots and Kuwait two from three attempts.

What he said
Nasyrdiov Timur (UZB) — Player
The match was fair and we are proud of ourselves.

Group B

Australia came back from 9-7 down in the third period to beat Brazil 12-10. That 5-1 period was the difference in winning and losing. The match was level at all the numbers from one to six and then again at nine when Australia came back from 8-6 down at halftime. Brazil went out to 9-7 with a penalty strike. Australia scored twice from the deep right to bring it to 9-9, then scored on extra from the top, which for some reason required a VAR decision. Australia had control of the ball in the dying seconds and William Valentine, three metres inside his half, launched the ball to the far end and crossed the line on the buzzer for a handy 11-9, three-quarter advantage. With less than three minutes remaining in the fourth, Brazil scored on extra-man attack and Australia responded with a shunt from centre forward at 2:39, which proved to be the final goal. Both teams looked confident and played some excellent water polo, especially for a first-up showing. 

Match heroes
Valentine, with four goals from 10 attempts — including the spectacular shot from his half — was named player of the match. Fabiano Gomez also scored four, trying to keep Brazil in the match. Australia netted two from seven from its shots on extra-man attack and Brazil three from eight. Brazil benefited from two penalty goals.

What they said
William Valentine (AUS) — Player of the Match
It was good. Very tough team. It was a slow game, but we brought it to the end; we had to put our heads down and grow through it and trust the process.Did you expect to be MVP?No, you know, none of us really thought about it. We had to go in there, we trusted the process, trusted each other to do our jobs. Whatever happens in the end just happens; luckily, we got the win.”
Artur Almora da Silva (BRA) — Player
I think it was a very tough game; we lost by two goals. Next match we are going harder and try to win.”

Netherlands came from 5-4 down at halftime to defeat Turkey in a close tussle that had the match level at four and five, both from the penalty line. Netherlands went out to 7-5 with Turkey converting a penalty to bring it to within one at the final break. The best advantage of the fourth quarter was 10-7 with a shot from the top and the next on counter. It became 10-8 with an extra-man goal and then a counter that was made as Turkey was exchanging a player at mid-pool. Turkey finished the match with its third successful penalty attempt. Netherlands earlier missed a chance from the five-metre line.

Match heroes
Jens Wijgers (NED) scored three goals and made a huge contribution with four steals to be named for the top award. Turkey’s Kemel Ata Caferli was 100 per cent with his three goals. Netherlands could have won more easily if it had converted any of its nine extra-man chances. Turkey made sure of three from 10.

What he said
Marnick Snel (NED) — Two Goals
Game was difficult. It was not easy as we thought, but at the end we got the points.” 

Group C

Italy was by far the classier team, making chances from nothing and punishing New Zealand’s mistakes with goals coming from loose defence. Half chances became goals on the board for Italy. It went 6-0 in the first quarter before New Zealand responded on penalty. Take out those six goals and it was a 14-8 advantage for Italy, showing how the match could have been closer. The first match is always the hardest for any team not used to high-level competition on a regular basis. Italy led 6-3 at the quarter and 10-5 at halftime, moving out to 16-8 by the final break. Italy won the counters 6-2 and the sole blemish was a missed penalty shot. It converted two others and the Kiwis made two from two.

Match heroes
Antonio Florena was player of the match, scoring twice and generally marshalling the troops. Alessandro Gullotta and Andrea Urbinati both scored four from six. New Zealand’s best shooter was Andrei Soldatovic with three from six, including both penalty goals which came up by 7-4.

What they said
Luca Provenziani (ITA) – Three Goals
The first game is always the most difficult because we’re not familiar with the pool; the sun gets in our eyes.”
Kama Morton (NZL) – Goal Scorer
“I think we were a bit nervous since it’s our first international game. I’m positive we can do better in the future.”

Serbia opened its account with a stirring victory in the feature match of the day following the opening ceremony. Spurred on by the home crowd, Serbia turned a tight 4-3 opening quarter into a more comfortable 8-4 halftime margin. The third period was squared at four, but Serbia had the better of the fourth 4-1. There were six penalties awarded with five conversions, USA missing one of its four attempts. Some of these were created with short surges into the attacking zone. Only two Serbian goals came on counter-attack. Serbia looked stronger, played with more purpose and above all, looked dangerous on attack, playing high out of the water.

Match heroes
Aleksandar Kovacevic (SRB) was named best in pool with a perfect three from three. Nikola Kojic topped the Serbian scoring with four from four. USA’s Ryder Dodd netted four as six team-mates also scored. On extra-man attack, Serbia was five from seven and USA five from 14.

What they said
Rodoljub Gajic (SRB) — Player
On the home advantage: “Home audience is the best one. We are here in Belgrade, our home, so it’s going to be great.”
Christopher Arakelian (USA) — Player
I think we need to capitalise on all opportunities we had. We had a bunch of six versus fives — we had a lot of chances, so we just needed to score. Because they’ve just countered us all the way and that caught up to us in the second half. 

Group D

Spain showed that its superior water polo education proved too much for the Canadians who were kept scoreless in the first half. In fact, it was not until 2:49 in the third period that the first goal came from extra-man attack — the source of the first three goals. The fourth came on full time as Carter Evans pounced on a rebound in front of goal to slap the ball in on the final buzzer. Spain scored three of its four first-quarter goals on counter, scored another three counters as it moved to 12-0 at halftime and only one in the second half as Canada came back into the match. Canada scored three from five on extra-man attack and Spain two from nine, so the Canadian defence was up to the task in the set play.

Match heroes
Javier Otero (ESP), with three goals from four attempts, was awarded best in pool. There were 10 scorers for Italy and only two of those did not score at least doubles. Such was the spread that Otero was the only player with three. Canada’s Ion Diacenco scored both his opportunities.

What they said
Javier Otero (ESP) — Player of the Match
“I think that the match was good because my team was really good and they helped me a lot.”
Andrej Gavric (CAN) – Goal Scorer
The score wasn’t good, but we gave our best. They took an early lead and held it for the whole game.”

Montenegro was another European team showing off its excellent skills, swimming and shooting prowess. It shot to 3-0 and won the period 5-2. In the second period, both teams scored centre-forward goals and the halftime mark was 9-3 to Montenegro. This became 16-3 as South Africa was denied any access. South Africa made a game of it in the fourth quarter at 4-3 down with the one insult coming when Mladjan Janovic scored a six-metre-free-throw helicopter shot (pictured above) that deflected into goal for 19-5. The total-shots statistic says it all. Montenegro took 42 and was successful with 20. South Africa only took 20 shots for its six goals.

Match heroes
Janovic was given the player-of-the-match award, easily topping the match scoring with four goals from six attempts. Five South Africans made the scoresheet. On the six-on-five count, Montenegro was the more efficient with three from eight compared to South Africa’s one from five.

What they said
Vladan Vukicevic (MNE) — Goal Scorer
“This is the first match of the tournament and we hoped to win because we prepared for this so much.
Taeg Mosehla (RSA) — Player
Coming to this tournament is much different than anything, so it was really interesting.