The world of water polo will see a new king this evening. A brilliant series of nine consecutive gold trophies of the national team of Serbia at major competitions is over.
This evening (20.30), Hungary and Croatia will meet in the final game of the men’s water polo tournament at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest. Hungary already has three World titles (1973, 2003, 2013). The Croats are seeking the second world title (after gold at the 2007 WCH).
Hungary has “extra player” in stands
The game will be played in the Hajos Alfred Swimming Complex on Marget Island. All previous matches of the tournament were played on Marget Island, but the Organizing Committee had an idea to move the final game to the pool of the newly built Danube Arena, where the Final Six of the LEN Champions League took place. The Danube Arena is the venue for the swimming competitions of the 2017 World Championships. But, the final decision was that the match for the gold will take place on Marget Island.
– Our players and all of us in the staff are very happy because the final will take place in the Alfred Hajos Swimming Complex. The team wanted to play here – said Tamas Marcz, the head coach of Hungary.
Hungary would have a big support of home fans in the Danube Arena too, for sure. But every player in the Hungarian team likes Marget Siget, where many important water polo matches took place
-Margaret Island is the home of Hungarian water polo– said Adam Decker.
Balaz Harai, the centre forward of Hungary, is very optimistic:
-We’ll beat Croatia in the final. They are a strong team. When it comes to the centre post they are similar to the Greeks, who we beat in the semifinals. Maybe they are better physically, something we’ll have to pay attention to and prepare for it. Like the others, I’m happy that we stay in the Hajos. To be honest, the pool of the Danube Arena is too deep. I shouldn’t say this, but in the 50 m pool of the Hajos we can rest a bit while we’re defending. – joked Harai and added:
-The atmosphere is fantastic in the Hajos. Even those sitting in the upper seats are able to see everything that happens during the match.
Before Hungary, only two host nations have won the medal at the men’s water polo World Championships. Yugoslavia was the 3rd in Belgrade 1973, Italy won the gold in Rome 1994.
Croatia came for the gold
Hungary eliminated Greece in the semifinals (9-7). The Croats had a harder job on Thursday. They interrupted Serbia’s golden row, by beating the Olympic champions in the semifinals (12-11).The victory against Serbia is one of their greatest achievements in the past decade. Croatia was waiting for a win against Serbia at the major competitions since the 2010 European Championships in Zagreb (10-9 in the semifinals). The Croats secured a medal in Budapest, but they wouldn’t be satisfied with a silver
– The day for the win against Serbia finally came. It was a huge victory. Now we want the title. We have enough silver and bronze medals. – said Ivica Tucak, Croatia head coach, and continued:
– We came here for the gold medal. Hungary is a great team, but the Hungarians are under pressure which burdens every home team. We respect them, but we are playing an excellent water polo in Budapest and I believe we can reach the winning trophy.
The win against Serbia raised the self-confidence of the Croats, but they want to forget the semifinals.
– The victory in the semifinals was just one step more on our way to the main goal. I believe in our victory in the final game – said Maro Jokovic, left-handed scorer.
Third clash in finals
Hungary and Croatia have met twice in final games at the major water polo tournaments.
Hungary won the final at the 1999 European Championships in Florence (15-12).
The Croats were better in the final at the 2007 World Championships in Montreal. They beat Hungary after two extra-times by 9-8 (1-2, 3-1, 1-3, 2-1, 1-1, 1-0) and won their first gold at the World Championships. Four guys who played in the final at the 2007 WCH will appear in today’s final: goalkeeper Viktor Nagy, Denes Varga (Hungary), Maro Jokovic and Andro Buslje (Croatia).
Hungary: Denes Varga 14 goals/26 attempts (53,8 % efficiency)
Croatia: Sandro Sukno 13/22 (59,1 %)
Hungary: Viktor Nagy 49 saves/75 shots (65,3 %), Atilla Decker 7/10 (70,0%)
Croatia: Marko Bijac 38/72 (52,8%), Ivan Marcelic 6/13 (46,2%)
Croatia – goals for: 62 goals/130 shots (47,7 %), goals against 41/133 (30,8%)
Hungary – goals for: 56 goals/145 shots (38,6 %), goals against: 29/135 (21,5 %)
Road to the finals
Hungary – B group: Australia 13-3, Italy 9-9, France 13-7. Quarterfinals: Russia 14-5. Semifinals: Greece 7-5.
Croatia – D group: USA 12-7, Russia 10-8, Japan 16-6. Quarterfinals: Italy 12-9. Semifinals: Serbia 12-11.
12:00 – For 7th place: Russia-Australia 7-10 (3-4, 2-2, 1-3, 1-1)
13:30 – For 5th lace: Montenegro-Italy 5-4 (1-1, 1-1, 3-2, 0-0)
15:00 – Bronze medal match: Greece-Serbia 8-11 (3-5, 1-2, 3-3, 1-1)
20:30 – Finals: Hungary-Croatia
1973 Belgrade: Hungary
1975 Cali: Soviet Union
1978 West Berlin: Italy
1982 Guayaquil: Soviet Union
1986 Madrid: Yugoslavia
1991 Perth: Yugoslavia
1994 Rome: Italy
1998 Perth: Spain
2001 Fukuoka: Spain
2003 Barcelona: Hungary
2005 Montreal: Serbia and Montenegro
2007 Melbourne: Croatia
2009 Rome: Serbia
2011 Shanghai: Italy
2013 Barcelona: Hungary
2015 Kazan: Serbia