Serbia, the reigning champion, dominated Greece 13-6 on the first day of the tournament in Podgorica, Montenegro. Italy defeated Croatia 8-6, Spain defeated Hungary 10-9, while Montenegro had to come back from a 5-2 deficit to defeat France 11-10. This implies that Greece, Hungary, and Croatia have no chance of qualifying for the Super Final, which will be held in late July in Strasbourg, France. France has already qualified as the host country.
6 CROATIA 8 ITALY
Croatia has a newer appearance and is not the same team as before. Before the FINA World Championships and the European crowns later in the year, it’s all about developing a style. As part of the preparation, both coaches loved this particular match.
Italy led the way the entire time, going up 4-1 late in the second quarter, turning at 5-2, increasing the lead to 7-2 at the final break, but they were forced to watch as Croatia put on a show for a 4-1 final quarter.
The officials’ anger was felt by both coaches. Alessandra Campagna (ITA) and Ivica Tucak (CRO) both received yellow cards in the second period for objecting over Matteo Iocchi-driving Gratta’s goal and Josip Vrlic’s second snap extra-man goal, which made the score 7-5.
Giacomo Cannella scored twice for Italy from deep left on an extra-man attack and from the top with a screamer for 6-2 while enjoying his first trip at the top table. Gonzalo Echenique scored the game’s final goal with a slider from deep right at 0:27, thrilling his squad. Ante Vukicevic, who was Croatia’s lone double scorer, missed a penalty shot while the team was trailing 5-2.
Italy had complete control when the quarter ended at 1-1, closing the half with 7-2, an unbeatable lead. In the fourth, Croatia came alive and scored four goals without reply, but it wasn’t enough to tie or win the game.
The fact that Croatia was able to win despite having a man disadvantage and still score six goals out of fourteen chances demonstrates that their man-down defense was superior to Italy’s, which only managed to score four goals out of fifteen opportunities. The one penalty shot that Croatia did not convert could have been decisive.
It’s going to be a huge year, and it follows right after the Olympics, so at this point, the outcomes could be anything. The head coach, Alessandro Campagna, seemed unconcerned about the outcome in the mixed zone, but he ought to be pleased that it was achieved with such little effort.
SERBIA 13 GREECE 6
Serbia is the team to beat, not because of the score, but because of how quickly it creates passes, chooses shots, and basically hurts its way through the game. Because Greece was missing regular captain Ioannis Fountoulis as well as seasoned talents Marios Kapotsis and Angelos Vlachopoulos, new players were given a chance.
The game, a rematch of last year’s Olympic final, played nothing like that, with Serbia taking a 4-2 quarter-time advantage and increasing it to an unassailable 9-4 at halftime and 11-5 at the third break.
Dusan Mandic, a left-hander, had four goals, the first two from the right, the third from the penalty line, and the fourth a power shot through heavy defense for a 12-5 score.
Dimitrios Skoumpakis gave Greece an early lead and scored the third, with Konstantinos Genidounias adding the second and fourth.
Greece led 2-1 when the game flipped 4-2 in Serbia’s favor. Greece remained in the game at 5-4 before Serbia held Greece scoreless for 13 minutes to win 11-4. For the final nine minutes, Greece tied the game at 2-2.
Serbia was the most efficient on extra-man attack today, converting four of nine attempts, while Greece only converted two of sixteen.
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