Hungary Beats Italy in OT to Take Gold in Men’s Water Polo

BARCELONA, Spain, July 26. IT'S been long 30 years since the laast time, but today Hungary's men's water polo team repeated as champions at a World Championship.

With an extra-time, 11-9 victory over Italy in the cavernous Palau Sant Jordi pool tonight, Hungary has added another glorious chapter to its already illustrious history: Olympic champion in 2000 and now World Champion in 2003.

You have to cast your mind back to 1973 in Belgrade when it last won the title at the inaugural championships.

In front of 10,800 screaming water polo fans, Hungary took its collection of medals to two gold, four silver and one bronze.

HUN: 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2 – – 11
ITA: 1, 3, 1, 3, 0, 1 – – 9

Hungary held a 2-1 lead at the quarter but Italy kept coming back and won the second quarter 3-2. Hungary won the next 2-1 and Italy the fourth 3-2 for 8-8.

Into extra time and Peter Biros scored his third on extra for 9-8. Hungary won the second period 2-1 with the final goal (penalty) coming from a tactical, illegal timeout by Italy.

The "baby" of the Italian team, 21-year-old Goran Fiorentini, showed his much more experienced team-mates that he was worthy of their companionships and praise. With four goals in a world final, Fiorentini lifted his championship total to eight and his esteem.

For Italy, it was a devastating loss, bringing with it a second silver medal to go with two titles and a bronze.

European champion Serbia & Montenegro proved it could play without two of its best players and still win at the highest level as it bested Greece 5-3 for the bronze.

Aleksandar Sapic and Dejan Savic were both banned by FINA today for incidents following the semifinal clash with Italy. Sapic received a nine-month ban and Savic six months.

As a new nation, it collected its first medal at this level, denying Greece its first medal at a World Championships. The Serbs were controlled throughout and pressured Greece heavily, denying the shots with a aggressive defense.

With Nikola Kuljaca having probably his best game of the tournament, the Greeks struggled to find the gaps, especially on extra-man where the statistics are not kind with only one goal coming from this situation.

Even without the tournament's top goal scorer, Sapic (14), Serbia & Montenegro still managed to score a couple of goals from his favored right-hand catch position. It led 3-2 at halftime and 4-2 at three quarters, winning the game with a goal on double extra in the final minute.

In the play-off for fifth, outgoing champion Spain beat the United States of America 9-8 after three tied quarters. The score read 3-3, 5-5 and 7-7 but Daniel Ballart scored the two winning goals.

In the seventh-placed play-off, Australia beat Slovakia 11-8 with Milan Cipov scoring four for the Slovaks.

Men's final placings:
1. HUN
2. ITA
3. SCG
4. GRE
5. ESP
6. USA
7. AUS
8. SVK
9. CRO
10. RUS
11. GER
12. ROM
13. BRA
14. CAN
15. JPN
16. CHN

7th & 8th place match
Quarters: 0-2, 1-4, 1-2, 3-3
SVK: 0, 1, 1, 3 – – 8
AUS: 2, 4, 2, 3 – – 11

Australia emulated its women's team by finishing in seventh position with the comfortable victory over Slovakia. Australia led 2-0 at the quarter and went 6-2 ahead with Nathan Thomas netting twice on extra for eight goals here in Barcelona. Milan Cipov scored the first of four to kick off the second half. Tim Neesham scored his second for the Aussie Sharks for 7-3 but Cipov replied with a drive down the right. An extra goal apiece, including Josef Hrosik's 10th for Slovakia, rounded out the third quarter for 8-5. Thomas Whalan scored his second and third from deep right-hand catch and the top, while Cipov grabbed a pair of goals from left-hand catch and extra for a championship tally of eight. Aussie Aleksandar Osadchuk scored his fifth penalty of the championship (in normal time) and Thomas Bruder completed the scoring with a counter-attack goal for Slovakia in the last 16 seconds.

5th & 6th place match
USA: 3, 2, 2, 0 – – 7
ESP: 3, 2, 2, 2, — 9

Outgoing champion Spain gave some cheer to its supporters with an excellent victory over the United States of America. Spain shot to a 3-1 lead but the USA retaliated through Jesse Smith from the top and Jeff Powers at center forward for 3-3 at the quarter break. The second quarter couldn't be separated, as well. Brett Ormsby had the USA ahead on extra and Daniel Ballart responded kin the same manner. Jesse Smith scored on a drive for 5-4 but then the Ivan Perez phenomenon kicked in with a backhand from center forward 14 seconds from halftime.

He threw two more from the two-meter zone, the first on extra and the second with his raw power, slithering off the near post. Dan Klatt had leveled for the USA at 6-6 but Perez's third made it 7-6, much to the delight of the near-capacity crowd.

Tony Azevedo scored his second and 12th for the championship on a cluttered right-hand catch position, just nine seconds from the hooter. Both teams had a timeout but Spain gained a penalty off its chance when a USA defender was called for stopping the shot with two hands. Ballart converted at 4:24 for 8-7. Ballart was at it again two minutes later with a lob shot from the top for 9-7. Both teams had their second timeout in the last two minutes.

Bronze Medal, for 3rd & 4th placings
1-1, 1-2, 0-1, 1-1.

Serbia & Montenegro won its first World Championship medal as a new nation, beating Greece with a controlled game. It started without the services of Aleksandar Sapic and Dejan Savic, who were both banned by FINA today for incidents following the semifinal clash with Italy. Sapic received a nine-month ban and Savic six months. It was a goal apiece in the first quarter with Predrag Jokic scoring early on from right-hand catch.

There was no further score until Ioannis Thomakos, Greece's top scorer, sent in his 11th of the championship on penalty, nine seconds from time. Both goalkeepers made some excellent saves in the first half, with Nikola Kuljaca especially in top form. Danilo Ikodinovic scored on extra and Antonios Vlontakis replied when left unattended on the post.

Vladimir Vujasinovic took Serbia & Montenegro ahead on right-hand catch late in the quarter. Vanya Udovicic took it out to a two-goal margin with a long shot from the top. Greece called a timeout in the final half-minute but lost the ball on the extra-man attack. Greece's extra-man shooting was hesitant, causing concern to coach Alessandro Campagna.

Theodoros Chatzitheodorou scored on extra for 4-3 down but the final goal went to the recently crowned European champion via Ikodinovic when Greece had two men excluded at 0:40.

(Courtesy: Fina)