CHELYABINSK, Russia, June 17. FOR the seventh time, Serbia won the World League Super Final and a check for $100,000. The team, which twice won as Serbia-Montenegro, defeated Hungary in the final match for the honor. Montenegro–the other half of the former joint country–defeated the American squad for third place.
Below are results of the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds of action which took place over the weekend.
QUARTERFINAL ROUND, June 14
United States 8, China 8 (penalty: 5-3)
China came very close to upsetting the USA squad and reaching the semifinal round of a major water polo tournament for the first time ever. The first period finished in a 2-2 tie. In the second period China had three man-up situations and couldn't convert any of them. The U.S. team scored after each situation and jumped to a 5-2 lead. In the last 70 seconds, the Chinese scored twice to bring the deficit down to 5-4 at halftime.
China quickly equaled the USA score in the third period, but Michael Rosenthal answered back with a 6-on-5 shot. The USA continued their scoring streak and brought the third quarter to an end with an 8-5 lead, seeming to be in command of the game. The Chinese battled back, thanks to Ge Weiqing's goaltending and scores from Li Bin, Zhang Chufeng and Liang Zhongxing which tied the game up at 8-8 with two minutes left. In the penalty round, the Americans won their second shootout match, 5-3, and put the team through to the semifinal round.
Hungary 8, Brazil 4
A defensive struggle by both teams brought about the lowest-scoring match of the tournament so far. Hungary took a 3-2 lead after the first quarter, and the game was never in doubt. They increased their lead to 4-3 in the second, 6-3 in the third and ended with an 8-4 victory. The Brazilians took away something from the match, as their coach Mirko Blazevic said: “We knew how strong Hungary, was, so we had only one thing in mind: to stay in the match for a longer period. We achieved that.”
Serbia 14, Japan 8
Japan defeated Montenegro and almost upset the United States. But they finished their group in fourth place and had to face a very powerful Serbian squad. Serbia did not get a lead in the match until the second period, when the score was 5-5 at that point (it had been tied at 3-3 after the first period). Slobodan Nikic gave Serbia the initial lead, and Dusan Madic gave them a two-goal advantage (7-5) after Japan missed on a 6-on-5. The Japan tried desperately to stay in the match, but Serbia ran up a 7-3 margin in the second half to reach the semifinals.
Montenegro 7, Russia 7 (penalty 5-4)
After their upset loss to China in the previous day's match, the Russians faced Montenegro, who was one of the favorites to reach the final round. Russia stunned the Montenegro team with a 3-1 lead after the first period. The differential could have been even more, had Russia not missed four man-up advantages in the second period. Montenegro bounced back in the second with Drasko Brguljan's score with 0.01 left on the clock to bring the halftime score to 4-3, Russia.
The two teams were tied 5-5 at the end of the third period. Back-and-forth scoring in the last period left the game at 7-7 with 2:45 to go on a shot by Russia's Artem Odintsov. The teams went to penalties; Montenegro prevailed with a score of 5-4 in the round to make it to semis.
SEMIFINAL ROUND, June 15
China 12, Brazil 7
The first time these two teams met, China routed Brazil 18-3. It was the second day of competition, and the Brazilians were still trying to recover from the long flights to get to the tournament. This time, the result was the same–China won–but the Brazilians showed a higher level of play than in the first match.
China rushed out to leads of 3-0 after the first, 5-0 in the second and was up 7-2 at the half. The Brazilians came back in the second half to lessen the lead to 7-5. They missed scoring on a penalty situation, and China came back with two goals toward the end of the quarter and a 9-5 lead. China outscored the Brazil team 3-2 in the last period for a final 12-5 score. Brazil at least tied the Chinese 5-5 in the second half. China will meet for fifth-sixth place, at least guaranteeing the team its highest rank ever in a FINA tournament.
Russia 13, Japan 7
The Russians joined the Chinese in the fifth-place game, thanks to a six-goal third period which equaled their scoring in the first half. Russia led the first quarter 4-3 on a goal with six seconds to go, and was up 6-4 at halftime courtesy of a goal with 46 seconds left on the clock.
Then the fateful third period came. Everything that could go wrong for Japan did. Russia scored on their first three attacks, then the Japanese missed two extra-man chances and Russia answered back with three more goals. The Japanese never called for a time-out, which might have helped. They did, however, come back in the final quarter and outscored the Russians, 3-1, for a final score of 13-7.
Serbia 8, Montenegro 6
It proved to be a tough match against former allies. Serbia and Montenegro competed as one team until 2006. The scoring was very even, with two goals being scored by each squad in both the first and second period to bring the score to 4-4 at the half. In the third period, Montenegro had a chance to once again tie the score at 5-5 but failed. Vanja Udovicic scored to give the Serbs a 6-4 lead, which held up during the remainder of the game. Serbian Zivko Gocic ended the scoring with just one tick left on the clock.
Hungary 8, USA 6
Hungary was able to turn the tables on the Americans, who beat them in a penalty shootout on the tournament's first day. The Hungarians learned from that game and improved throughout the matches. They returned to a tight defense that had served them well in the European qualifying rounds. After having nine goals scored on them by the USA and 10 by Montenegro in the first two games of this tournament, they lowered the goals against to five against Japan, four against Brazil and five against the Americans in the semifinal game until the last minute.
In the first half of play, the Hungarians built up a 4-0 lead. The Americans scored two late in the second period to half the deficit at 4-2 at the half. By the middle of the third period, the USA closed the gap to 5-4. The Hungarians responded with two penalty shot scores and a 10-meter shot from Denes Varga to rebuild a three-goal advantage. Tim Hutten scored on the last of three penalties in the last period with 40 seconds left in the match to bring the game to a close at 8-6, Hungary. The Hungarians returned to the finals after a six-year absence, when they lost to Serbia.
FINALS ROUND, June 16
Seventh Place Game: Japan 9, Brazil 4
The Japanese scored three times in the first four minutes of the contest and built up the lead to 4-1 at the end of the first period. They extended their lead to 7-2 at the half and had the game well in hand. Only four goals were scored in the second half–two by each team. Brazil tried to make a comeback as they had in their game against the Chinese, but couldn't manage it. Meanwhile, Hazui Shota widened the Japanese gap to 8-2 by the end of the third period. Brazil scored two goals in the last period to Japan's lone goal for a 9-4 finish. Japan's Koji Takei was the tournament's high scorer with 17 goals.
Fifth Place Game: Russia 17, China 8
The Russians enjoyed a total team effort and put together their best performance of the week with their 17-8 thrashing of China. They netted seven extra-man goals out of nine chances, scored several distance shots and led some fast counter attacks. Russia built up an 8-3 lead by the half. They were especially helped by a six-goal third period that really put China away for good in this game. The Chinese did outscore Russia 5-3 in the last period, which also saw two red cards being issued. Russia's 17-goal total was the second-highest of the tournament; ironically, China holds the top spot with their 18-goal performance against Brazil.
Bronze Medal Game: Montenegro 10, USA 10 (penalties: 3-1)
The U.S. team led off early and enjoyed leads of 2-1 after the first quarter and 5-4 at the half. It seemed as though the Americans would be able to win against the Montenegro team, which had defeated the USA 9-4 on Day 3. But it wasn't to be.
In the second half, Montenegro came back to tie the score 5-5 in the third period, but the Americans stormed back with three unanswered goals to bring the score up to 8-5. Ranko Perovic, the Montenegro coach, called a timeout. Shortly after the timeout, the team scored to bring the deficit down to 8-6, where the score remained at the end of the third period.
The final eight minutes were perhaps the most exciting of the entire tournament. With two 6-on-5 situations, Montenegro tied the score at 8-8. Michael Rosenthal gave the Americans a 9-8 lead, which was equaled 22 seconds later by Filip Klikovac. Darko Brguljan took the lead for Montenegro for the first time in the match with 27 seconds left on the clock. The USA earned a 6-on-5 penalty with just five seconds to go–just enough for Rosenthal to beat the goalie and the clock. In the penalty shootout, the Americans missed all but one of their shots, while Montengro scored three, to give them the bronze medal.
Gold Medal Game: Serbia 12, Hungary 7
Serbia outscored the Hungarians in all four quarters and was definitely the stronger team in this match. Back-to-back scoring enabled the Hungarians to stay even with the Serbians until the score reached 3-3 in the first period; Hungary missed a man-up situation, the Serbians took advantage and scored, and wound up with a 4-3 first period advantage. They extended that to 7-4 by halftime. Hungary changed out goalies to begin the second half, which worked well for them, and the team managed to climb back to scores of 7-5 and 8-6. However, Filip Filipovic scored his fourth goal of the game to increase Serbia's lead to 9-6. Serbia added three goals in the final period to Hungary's single successful shot, and the tournament ended with a 12-7 Serbian victory.
Final Team Standings
United States $35,000
Best scorer: Koji Takei, Japan, 17 goals
Best Player: Vanja Udovicic, Serbia
Best Goalkeeper: Milos Scepanovic, Montenegro