Croatia Tops Team USA in World League Semis

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The highly anticipated final was set up on Saturday as Croatia used a patient game and superior second half to overcome a strong USA team in the semifinals: 11-6. The first half looked rather interesting and well balanced as USA head coach Dejan Udovicic had drawn up a defensive plan that worked. Croatia struggled to create clear chances but on the other end saw USA having to work as hard to creat their opportunities. Thanks to a hit with just seconds remaining in the first half by Antonio Petkovic, Croatia managed to take a slim lead heading into the second half: 5-4. There however things began to look different. USA were virtually shut down in the third period which took almos six minutes before seeing the first goal being scored, by Croatia’s lefthander Maro Jokovic. And after Paulo Obradovic beat two defenders and goalie Merill Moses for his only goal of the game, Croatia all of a sudden had taken a 7-4 lead with just one more quarter to be played. The difference proved decisive despite USA captain Tony Azevedo scoring the 7-5 goal with still 6 minutes to go in fourth period. Sandro Sukno was quick to reply for Croatia scoring from outside and after Damir Buric did so too, on a deflected attempt, the game was more or less played with a 9-5 score and 4 minutes to play. Goals were exchanged in the final minutes but Croatia’s win and final berth were never in danger anymore. Now the two heavy tournament favourites will go head to head in a big final of the 2015 World League on Sunday in Bergamo. For a spot at the 2016 Olympic and $100,000 prize money.

Last year’s semifinalists Australia will play for 5th place in this year’s edition of the World League. The Aussie Sharks rolled past China 13-3 in Saturday’s 5th-8th place semifinal match-up to set up a meeting with either Hungary or Super Final hosts Italy for 5th place. Australia quikcly made work of the Chinese team by either shooting well from outside as well as finishing several counter attack opportunities. While allowing just three goals the entire match a team effort on the offensive end, as George Ford was the only field player not to score in this one, proved to be simply too much for China to handle.

Opponents in that match-up will be last year’s finalists Hungary who outplayed hosts Italy in the second game on Saturday: 5-10. The Hungarian were clearly more ready to play and quickly established a seemingly comfortable advantage. The Italian defence, usually the team’s stronghold, was unable to keep the Magyars from scoring while on offence, the sharpness in shooting displayed so often by several Italian team members, simply wasn’t there. More than once if they managed to get around the block for an attempt on goal, goalkeeper Viktor Nagy was on the spot to make a couple of nice saves. Meanwhile Hungary continued to extend their lead and in a pale-looking final period both teams settled for the outcome as Hungary will now play for 5th place while Italy, in front of the home crowd, will have to avoid a last-place finish by facing China on Sunday.

Not very surprisingly defending champions Serbia were the first to reach the final of the 2015 edition. In a solid performance in the semifinals Brazil was outplayed in the second half, just enough to emerge victorious with a 4-goal advantage: 9-13. Brazil’s effort went quite well, especially in the first half where the Brazilian side could keep up nicely with the favourite Serbs. They jumped out to 2-goal leads on double ocassions but Brazil was right there to cut the deficit back to one, also at half-time as Serbia led 4-5. The second half was a different story though. Here the Serbian superiority became more obvious with their stellar defence as the basis. It became even harder for Brazil to score while on the other end Serbia’s balanced attack was on a roll as they jumped out to a 6-11 lead early in the final period. That more or less made the decision. The Ratko Rudic coached Brazilians went on to score three more goals but saw Serbia responding twice as they clearly held on for the victory that will put them in the final once again. The 8-time and reigning champions will be up against Croatia on Sunday for a spot at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

2015 FINA Men’s World League Super Final
Bergamo, Italy

Schedule and results

Saturday, 27 June

Australia (L13) vs. China (L16) 13-3 (5-1, 2-1, 3-1, 3-0) – game 17
Australia scorers: Billy Miller 3, Richie Campbell 2, Jarrod Gilchrist 2, Johnno Cotterill, Nathan Power, Aidan Roach, Joel Swift, Tyler Martin, Rhys Howden.

China scorers: Li Li, Zhongxian Chen, Jinghao Chen.

Italy (L14) vs. Hungary (L15) 5-10 (1-3, 1-2, 1-3, 2-2) – game 18
Italy scorers: Valentino Gallo 2, Fabio Baraldi 2, Andrea Fondelli.

Hungary scorers: Norbert Madaras 2, Denes Varga 2, Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Hosnyanszky, Ferenc Salamon, Daniel Angyal, Daniel Varga, Balazs Harai.

Brazil (W13) vs. Serbia (W16) 9-13 (3-4, 1-1, 2-5, 3-3) – game 19
Brazil scorers: Guilherme Gomes 2, Felipe Perrone 2, Jonas Crivella, Bernardo Gomes, Adria Delgado, Felipe Santos, Gustavo Guimaraes.

Serbia scorers: Dusan Mandic 2, Dusko Pijetlovic 2, Milan Aleksic 2, Filip Filipovic 2, Stefan Mitrovic 2, Zivko Gocic, Sava Randjelovic, Andrija Prlainovic.

Croatia (W14) vs. USA (W15) 11-6 (2-2, 3-2, 2-0, 4-2) – game 20
Croatia scorers: Antonio Petkovic 2, Sandro Sukno 2, Damir Buric, Luka Bukic, Ante Vukicevic, Andelo Setka, Paulo Obradovic.

USA scorers: Tony Azevedo 2, Alex Roelse, Luca Cupido, Josh Samuels, Alex Bowen.

Sunday, 28 June

16.00: China (L17) vs. Italy (L18) – 7th/8th place
17.20: Australia (W17) vs. Hungary (W18) – 5th/6th place
18.40: Brazil (L19) vs. USA (L20) – bronze medal
20.00: Serbia (W19) vs. Croatia (W20) – final

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

Tournament winner earns berth for 2016 Olympic Games.