According to waterpolo.hu, our men’s water polo national team were superb in drawing 6-6 with world champions Croatia and then avenged that defeat in the final last year by winning 4-2 on penalties in the Duna Aréna to reach the World League semi-finals where they’ll play Japan at 18:15 today.
It was job done when Hungary beat Japan in their last group-stage fixture, thus ensuring that a repeat of last year’s FINA World Championship final between the hosts and Croatia would take place in the Duna Aréna, this time at the quarter-final stage.
“It will be a great duel”.
However, what must also be taken into account is that nine members of that Croatian squad including key man Sandro Sukno have since retired, while for Hungary six players have ended their international careers. Therefore, this match-up was a very different affair.
For a start, there was no early four-goal advantage handed to the visitors, instead both teams defending stoutly and only conceding once in each of the first two quarters. Left-hander Gergő Zalánki equalised for the hosts after Croatia had taken an early lead from their third player-advantage situation, but Viktor Nagy was still the busier of the two goalkeepers in the first quarter.
Into the second period and again Hungary ceded the initiative, Bijac saving from Krisztián Manhercz before Krapic put Croatia ahead again and Nagy and his defence withstood a subsequent Croatian onslaught, a rearguard action which meant Márton Vámos’ left-hand howitzer levelled the scores at 2-2 as the teams reached the halfway stage.
Thankfully the pattern of the game changed after the break.. in Hungary’s favour! The defence remained almost impenetrable but soon the attack came to the fore, Krisztián Bedő cancelling out Milos’ goal for the visitors and Dániel Angyal and Zalánki both scoring to put HUngary 5-3 up. Unfortunately Vrlic halved the deficit with just nine seconds left of the third quarter.
Bedő has been in fine form all tournament and he scored again early in the final quarter, only for Buslje to reply in kind. Balázs Erdélyi threw a fierce shot into the side netting and Zalánki hit the woodwork as Hungary lost accuracy at crucial times, but just as important was Nagy’s erstwhile fine form which preserved the home team’s slender advantage. Alas, this only lasted until 1:33 bfore the end when Dávid Jansik was permanently excluded via substitution and Vukicevic capitalised to restore parity.
There were still chances for wither side to to score a winning goal but neither could take them, Angyal blocking a Croatian shot superbly at one poit to ensure a 6-6 draw and a decisive penalty shootout. For us, Vámos, Zalánki, Bence Bátori and Erdélyi were on target but Garcia missed for Croatia and Nagy saved Fatovic’s effort to send Hungary through to the semi-finals as 4-2 victors in the shootout.
Japan then shocked the USA 11-10 to secure a rematch between the two teams just 48 hours after their last meeting.
Men’s World League Super finals, Budapest, Duna Aréna
Hungary 6–6 Croatia (1–1, 1–1, 3–2, 1–2) – 4–2 to Hungary on pens
Referees: Colominas (ESP), Flahive (AUS)
HUNGARY: Nagy V. – Vámos 1, Mezei, Jansik D., Kovács G., Erdélyi, Bátori. Replacements: Angyal 1, Manhercz, Zalánki 2, Bedő 2, Pohl. Head coach: Tamás Märcz
CROATIA: Bijac – Fatovic, Buljabasic, Vukicevic 1, Vrlic 1, Setka, Garcia. Replacements: Benic, Krapic 1, Milos 2, Buslje 1, Basic. Head coach: Ivica Tucak