It is difficult to overstate the emotions attached to any Croatia vs. Serbia matchup, let alone one between arguably each nation’s best athletic teams. Croatia are the defending Olympic champions and defeated a strong, experienced Montenegro side to earn a title chance.
Serbia appeared to sleepwalk through the group stage earning two draws and an historic loss to Brazil, which threatened to keep them advancing to the medal rounds where they were expected to win gold by most accounts. Observers speculate that this edition of the Serbian water polo machine could be the best ever, yet the opening round exposed either weaknesses newly discovered, or a side interested in the group stage only so much as to propel them to their rightful spot in the medal round.
The latter explanation seems apt. The Serbians had no patience for a very good Italian team and dominated them in their semifinal win. They exhibited most of the offensive prowess commonly attributed to them since their world-dominating run began after the very disappointing 2012 Olympics.
…after a horrible group stage where the Serbs struggled to even make it to the knockout [portion] of the tournament, their performance on Thursday was impressive as Italy was dominated for over one half, suffering [six] goals before finally getting on the board themselves.
Our friend Tim Hartog, newly appointed to Waterpololgy.com, has all the details with a special European emphasis.
The gold medal match takes place on Sunday at 17:50 Brazil time.