The first semifinalists in the men’s tournament were not the respective group winners. Both Hungary and Spain were eliminated from medal contention in Tuesday’s first pair of quarterfinals at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. Montenegro edged Hungary in a thriller on penalties 11-13 while Serbia proved too strong for Spain 10-7 in a convincing performance.
Montenegro performed at its best and went to the medal battles beating Hungary on penalties after a great performance. Goalie Milos Scepanovic was the hero for the Vladimir Gojkovic coached side as he was on top form during the match and decisive in the penalty shoot-out. In the field experienced Montenegrin players stepped up on the occasion and proven their worth. Drasko Brguljan was leading his team in goals and assists. For Hungary Balazs Erdelyi and Marton Vamos held their team in it before, in extremis, the game got levelled.
For Montenegro it eventually had to take penalties to go through, as the Hungarians had the patience to come back from a lost game, as captain Denes Varga shot an incredible long-distance strike at 1.15 before end to tie the game. And so, after a final phase where successive tries by Mladjan Janovic and Vamos did not went in, the spectacular game was headed for a spectacular, and nail-biting finish: penalties.
The first 5 penalty shots went in before Marton Vamos, one of Hungary’s kick-starters of their comeback during the match, saw his attempt saved by Milos Scepanovic. The advantage in the series was quickly undone though as Mladjan Janovic misfired his next attempt. Back levelled but the series almost at its decisive moment. And here Scepanovic saved the day for the Montenegrins by saving also Norbert Hosnyanszky’s attempt. This time though Montenegro did not make a mistake and finished the game. Vjekoslav Paskovic shot home his following penalty shot and sent his team to the semi-finals where Croatia, who controlled Brazil, awaits; just like 4 years ago in London. Scepanovic the hero and Montenegro for a chance for revenge on the 7-5 lost semi-final in London.
Serbia vs. Spain
Serbia got off to a good start and early on looked different than the side that struggled in the group stage. Strong and disciplined defence caused Spain trouble from the beginning. Thanks to Guillermo Molina the Spaniards got back from trailing 4-1 to 4-3 but after that it was all Serbia. In the second half Spain was virtually shut down, the extra man opportunities for Spain were heavily defended and to make matters worse, the Serbian attack started rolling. Dusan Mandic was on target scoring 3 goals from outside in the opening half where also players like Stefan Mitrovic, and Milan Aleksic, until then having quiet tournaments, came through with outside shots. The 7-3 half-time score showed the difference.
Things changed however in the third term. Spain’s defence changed and held Serbia far away from the goal where Daniel Lopez got more and more in control of the long-range bombs fired at him. On the other end the Spaniards crawled back into it as Alberto Munarriz drew an exclusion and finished off the extra man. His score midway through the quarter came after Molina had netted his 3rd of the game, also on extra man, 2 minutes prior and saw the Spaniards more or less in control. Serbia went on scoreless in the third session that ended with the score at 7-5 and the game at a crossroad in what finish to take. Things had to be decided in the final term where the reigning world champs got a lift from Stefan Mitrovic who finished off a nice extra man on a cross pass from Dusan Mandic for the 8-5 score, although Balazs Sziranyi came through with a nice center action goal in the next attack getting Spain back to trailing 8-6. But despite several chances on extra man in the remainder Spain could not score. The ferocious man-down defence by the Serbs bothered the Iberians and eventually cost them the game. Filip Filipovic made them pay on the other end hitting after being left open a bit too much. And so Serbia led 9-6 with under 6 minutes to go. Spain started trying harder and harder but could not get past the Serbian defence and goalkeeper Branislav Mitrovic who made a rock-solid impression also lifting his performance. When Marc Minguell finally raffled in the ball, again from extra man, it looked too late. Minguell tried again under a minute later but his attempt from the right wing was blocked by Slobodan Nikic and that was the game. The exclamation point was for man of the match Mandic who blasted home a backhand from the center position with 24 seconds on the clock for the 10-7 final score. Serbia celebrated having lifted their performance and reaching the semi-finals where now the winner of the Italy-Greece quarterfinal will await.
Brazil vs. Croatia
Croatia secured their spot in the semifinals thanks to a controlled 6-10 victory over home team Brazil. In the second period the patient Croats, led by a strong performance from goalkeeper Marko Bijac who even stopped 2 penalty shots in the first half including one from Jug Dubrovnik team-mate Felipe Perrone, took control and never had to doubt their win, despite a nice 3rd quarter from the host nation. But the disciplined Croatians, where the left-handers tandem of Xavi Garcia and Maro Jokovic combined for 6 goals, remained in control. Experience was one of the difference-maker in this one where the Brazilians, following their nice group-stage run, could not dream of more. They will now play for 5th place which still would be a spectacular result for the Ratko Rudic coached side. The most decorated coach in water polo saw the squad with whom he became Olympic champion 4 years ago in London advancing to the semifinals where Montenegro awaits: indeed just like in London 2012.
Marko Bijac played a strong game in goal for Croatia.
Greece vs. Italy
Maybe the least spectacular showdown of the four quarterfinals played on Tuesday but a real showing of defensive quality by the Italians led them to a 5-9 win over Greece to claim the final spot in the semifinals. The Greek, one of the most offensively gifted sides in today’s game, were held scoreless for over 1,5 quarters before Konstantinos Mourikis broke the deadlock actually going on for 2 straight hits. The Italians did not panicked though. Disciplined they kept on playing causing Greece great trouble on offence. The shooters were held far away from the goal where Stefano Tempesti had a great game posting 12 saves. More importantly his team managed to control the feared Greek extra man play. They got several, especially in the second half but simply converted not enough to get back into it. And with distance striked by Alessandro Nora, Niccolo’ Gitto and Pietro Figlioli going in the Italians managed to consolidate their advantage. Ioannis Fountoulis scored the 4-6 goal with 4.49 to play in the game but two goals later by Italy (Christian Presciutti and Matteo Aicardi) the lead was back to 4 in what looked to the decisive blow. Angelos Vlachopoulos converted an extra man quickly in the final two minutes but Pietro Figlioli showed he still is one of the fastest swimmers around going for a counter attack and finishing as he set the final score at 5-9. Greece had to settle for a tough, but deserved defeat.
Valentino Gallo vs. Konstantinos Flegkas.
Up next for the Italians a familair foe in Serbia, the same opponent as in the semifinals four years ago at the Olympics. There the Sandro Campagna coached side won to advance to the gold medal game, losing that one to Croatia, but a whole different match-up can be expected to take place on Thursday.
Quarter Final Round – Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Hungary vs. Montenegro 11-13 (1-2, 2-4, 3-3, 3-1)
Hungary scorers: Erdelyi 3, Vamos 3, De. Varga 2, Manhercz.
Montenegro scorers: Ivovic 3, Dr. Brguljan 2, Paskovic, Radovic, Janovic, Klikovac.
Serbia vs. Spain 10-7 (3-1, 4-2, 0-2, 3-2)
Serbia scorers: Mandic 4, S. Mitrovic 2, Filipovic 2, Aleksic, Cuk.
Spain scorers: Molina 3, Munarriz 2, Sziranyi, Minguell.
Brazil vs. Croatia 6-10 (2-3, 1-4, 3-1, 0-2)
Brazil scorers: Gomes 3, Delgado, Silva, Guimarães.
Croatia scorers: Garcia 3, Jokovic 3, Buslje, Sukno, Buric, Bukic.
Greece vs. Italy 5-9 (0-2, 2-2, 1-2, 2-3)
Greece scorers: Fountoulis 2, Mourikis 2, Vlachopoulos.
Italy scorers: Figlioli 3, Aicardi 2, Di Fulvio, C. Presciutti, Gitto, Nora.
Women Semi-final Round – Wednesday, August 17 – day 11
11.00: Australia vs. Brazil – 5th-8th place classification semi-finals
12.20: Russia vs. Italy – semi-final 1
15.10: Spain vs. China – 5th-8th place classification semi-finals
16.30: Hungary vs. USA – semi-final 2
Time mentioned is local time (UTC/GMT – 3 hours)