The Serbian men repeated their performance from the World League Super-Final by winning gold at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships. The top two highest ranked teams not yet qualified were given spots to compete in the men’s event at the Olympics. No spots were allocated for the women’s event. The World Aquatics Championships is currently being held in Kazan, Russia from July 24th to August 9th 2015. The men’s water polo event was held from July 27th to August 8th 2015.
Unsurprisingly Europe dominated the group stage with Croatia, Greece, Hungary and Serbia all maintaining a 100% record and thus all received byes to the quarterfinals while the second and third place teams faced off against each other in the round of 16.
The round of 16 went as expected as Montenegro, Australia, Italy and the United States all defeated Kazakhstan, South Africa, Canada and Brazil respectively. In the quarterfinals Serbia and Croatia had no issue defeating Montenegro and the United States respectively while Greece needed a penalty shoot-out to defeat Australia, winning the shoot-out 5-4 while Italy was able to hang on against Hungary as two of the top teams went at it with Italy winning 8-7.
In the semifinals Croatia was able to maintain a lead over Greece for the entire match, including a 2 goal lead with less than two minutes remaining. Greece brought it within one before Christodoulos Kolomvos scored their much needed second goal to tie the match 10-10 with 27 second remaining. A penalty shoot-out was required, but Greece was unable to use the momentum and instead fell to Croatia 5-3. The win booked Croatia not only to the final, but to the Olympics.
In the other semi-final match Serbia had a dream start building a 4-0 lead over Italy at the end of the period. At several points within the match Serbia had a six goal lead as Italy never fully recovered from its terrible start. Serbia was able to cruise to the final by a score of 10-6 to set up a match against their biggest rival in almost any sport.
Because Serbia had already previously qualified to the Olympics the winner of the bronze medal match would take the second qualification spot. The match was very close with the lead never surpassing 2, but it was Greece that either had the lead or was tied. Going into the fourth quarter they were leading by a single goal however a goal midway through the period by Italy’s Pietro Figilioli tied the match and forced a penalty shoot-out. Two saves by their goal keeper was all that was needed for Greece to win the shoot-out 4-2 thus winning the bronze medal and Olympic quota.
The final initially began as a tight affair between Serbia and Croatia as the two teams were tied 2-2 at the end of the first quarter, but a three goal run by Serbia in the second gave them a more than large enough lead. Croatia was able to recover in the third, but was unable to cut into the lead as a four goal Serbian avalanche in the fourth ended the match 11-4 and the gold medal to Serbia.
Qualification now turns to continental qualifiers as each continent is given a single spot to qualify before a final qualification tournament among teams not yet qualify occurs. By winning both the World League and the Aquatics Championships Serbia will likely go into Rio as the favourites to win their first gold medal as their own nation.
- United States
- South Africa
- OmegaTiming. 16th FINA World Championships Water Polo Results. Access on August 8 2015.