Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee Member

Olympic and world champion Hungary will play FINA World League and European champion Serbia for the 2014 FINA Men’s Water Polo World Cup at the Central Swimming Pool in Almaty on Sunday. It will be the third successive major tournament this year the pair will face off for gold.Hungary repulsed the solid challenge of United States of America 7-5 and Serbia withstood Croatia’s attack for a 7-4 victory in today’s medal semifinals.The big news of the day was Hungarian superstar Denes Varga’s suspension for brutality 2:10 from the end of the match with USA. He will miss the gold-medal final on Sunday.

In the classification 5-8 semifinals, Australia beat South Africa 13-2 and Kazakhstan upset Montenegro 9-8 with a Rustam Ukumanov extra-man goal in the last two seconds.

Four teams qualify out of this World Cup for next year’s FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, and as Serbia and Hungary finished 1-2 at the June FINA World League Super Final, they were pre-qualified. That meant the next four teams would go to Kazan.

USA and Croatia are the next two teams off the rank, while Australia and Kazakhstan take the third and fourth spots regardless of how they finish in their fifth-sixth play-off on Sunday.

Montenegro missed out on a World Cup qualification berth for Kazan, but will still travel, thanks to grabbing the third European berth from the recent European Championships in Budapest.

The biggest loser from today’s Kazakhstan victory over Montenegro, was Spain, who will now not contest the World championships.

Game reports:

Match 17: 14:30, 5-8 Semifinal, AUSTRALIA 13 SOUTH AFRICA 2
Quarters: 3-2, 3-0, 5-0, 2-0

Referees: Mihajlo Ciric (SRB), Masoud Rezvani (IRI).
Extra Man: AUS: 3/7. RSA: 0/3
Pens: RSA: 0/1.

AUSTRALIA: James Clark, Richard Campbell, George Ford (2), John Cotterill (2), Nathan Power (1), Jarrod Gilchrist (3), Aidan Roach (2), Aaron Younger, Lachlan Edwards, Tyler Martin (1), Mitchell Emery (1), Blake Edwards, Edward Slade, James Stanton. Head Coach: Elvis Fatovic.
SOUTH AFRICA: Dwayne Flatscher, Etienne Le Roux, Devon Card (1), Ignardus Badenhorst, Nicholas Rodda, Joao Marco De Carvalho, Lodewyk Rabie, Jared Wingate-Pearse, Dean Whyte, Pierre Le Roux (1), Christopher Baker, Nicholas Hock, Julian Lewis. Head Coach: Paul Martin.

AUS vs RSA - credit: Russell McKinnon

Australia qualified for next year’s FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia by virtue of beating South Africa in the 5-8 semifinals. South Africa had the lead for the first time in the tournament when captain Pierre Le Roux played on when all appeared lost and slipped the ball around goalkeeper James Stanton. The Aussie Sharks worked their plays and three straight goals gave them a quarter-time lead. South Africa tried, but could not score for the rest of the match and even had a Pierre Le Roux penalty shot blocked by Stanton with seven seconds remaining. The Sharks went on counter, converted extra-man attacks and scored from all angles in pursuit of better tactics before the classification match for fifth place on Sunday. Devon Card scored an excellent centre-forward goal for 1-1 and has been the driving force at the front for a team that head coach Paul Martin said was concentrating on finishing rather than defence as where national teams have done in the past. Australia’s normal big scorers took a back seat as head coach Elvis Fatovic (CRO) gave pool time and extra attention to their skills.

Match 18: 15:50, 5-8 Semifinal, MONTENEGRO 8 KAZAKHSTAN 9
Quarters: 2-3, 4-1, 1-1, 1-4

Referees: Georgios Stavridis (GRE), Gabor Vogel (HUN).
Extra Man: MNE: 4/9. KAZ: 2/11.
Pens: KAZ: 1/1.

MONTENEGRO: Dejan Lazovic, Marko Vukmirovic, Nikola Markovic, Stefan Vidovic (1), Darko Brguljan (6), Bogdan Durdic, Dorde Bulatovic, Jovan Saric, Radovan Latinovic, Nikola Murisic, Filip Klikovac (1), Uros Cuckovic, Slaven Kandic. Head Coach: Ranko Perovic.
KAZAKHSTAN: Makhmetov Madikhen, Sergey Gubarev (2), Yevgeniy Medvedev, Roman Pilipenko (1), Vladimir Ushakov (3), Alexey Shmider, Murat Shakenov (2), Anton Koliadenko, Rustam UkumanoV (1), Mikhail Ruday, Ravil Manafov, Branko Pekovich, Valeriy Shlemov., Head Coach: Sergey Drozdov.

MNE vs KAZ - credit: Russell McKinnon
MNE vs KAZ - credit: Russell McKinnon

Kazakhstan really wanted to beat Montenegro and qualify for the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. It needed to win the final quarter by three goals. It needed to score a goal in the dying seconds. This it did. Even thought it was semifinal for the 5-8 positions, because of the make-up of the tournament and the fact that four qualifiers would come from the top six positions, Kazakhstan needed to gain a spot as of right and not to have to go to next month’s Asian Games in Korea and win the title for the spot. Now it has the luxury of competing knowing that it has already booked a plane trip to Kazan. Rustam Ukumanov was the go-to man for the winner. He obliged off a superb pass from Vladimir Ushakov from the top left. Ukumanov was on the far post and he took the catch with ease, turned dlowly and planted the ball down in the bottom right while the goalkeeper was on the other side of the cage. The goal came at 0:02.7 seconds and the crowd was ecstatic. Montenegro, now not bringing a better team to Almaty, will be looking elsewhere to gain a spot in Kazan. Montenegro always struggled and without Darko Brguljan, it would have been toast. He scored six of Montenegro’s eight goals and when Kazakhstan twigged to his potency he was pushed out of the way in the final five minutes after he had just gained his sixth. Montenegro took the lead at 4-3 early in the second quarter and was 6-4 ahead at halftime. This became 7-4 late in the third before Ushakov converted a penalty goal five seconds from the final break. Murat Shakenov scored either side of Brguljan’s sixth goal and when Sergey Gubarev went on counter to score at 2:02, the pool was set alight and at 8-8 there was a good chance for Kazakhstan to win. It came after a timeout at 0:42 and an earned extra-man attack. Kazakhstan was patient and sought out the right man for victory. Montenegro, shocked early, did not know how to finish and looked hesitant. Kazakhstan, however, had a reputation and a home crowd to protect. An assistant coach for Montenegro gained a red card after the final goal.

Match 19: 17:10, 1-4 Semifinal, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 5 HUNGARY 7
Quarters: 1-3, 1-2, 2-2, 1-0

Referees: Daniel Flahive (AUS), Liang Zhang (CHN).
Extra Man: USA: 2/11 HUN: 2/8.
Pens: USA: 0/1.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Merrill Moses, Ryder Roberts, Alex Obert, Michael Rosenthal, Luca Cupido (1), Conner Cleary, Josh Samuels, Bret Bonnani, Alex Bowen (1), Nolan McConnell (1), Jesse Smith, John Mann (2), McQuin Baron. Head Coach: Dejan Udovicic.
HUNGARY: Attila Decker, Miklos Gor-Nagy, Norbert Madaras (1), Balazs Erdelyi, Bence Batori (1), Norbert Hosnyanszky, Adam Decker, Daniel Angyal, Daniel Varga, Denes Varga (3), Krisztian Bedo, Balazs Harai (1), Marton Levai. Head Coach: Tibor Benedek.

USA vs HUN - credit: Russell McKinnon

Hungary superstar Denes Varga did his team no favours by committing a brutality foul with a little more than two minutes remaining in the first medal semifinal and will be suspended for the gold-medal final. The foul meant USA was given a penalty attempt and would play the final minutes one man up. Alex Bowen had his attempt tipped by Attila Decker, but it was unseen by the referees and the Hungarians went on attack. No score came and the hopes were for USA who had a pass intercepted and the game swung back to Hungary. A missed shot late in the match gave the ball to Hungary, who swam into the gold-medal final, but will have to play without its star, who gains an automatic one-match suspension. It was the second brutality foul of the tournament following on from Serbian Nemanda Ubovic’s indiscretion two days ago. Hungary was pressured all the way and USA opened through Nolan McConnell only to see Hungary — with Denes Varga scoring his first —shoot to 3-1 by the first break. John Mann scored from two metres for USA and Denes Varga slid deep, accepted a pass and scored for 4-2 — the only goals of the period. Bowen and Mann lifted the score to 5-4 to give USA hope. Later in the period Denes Varga scored again and Norbert Madaras scored with two seconds left for 7-4. Luca Cupido lobbed from the top for 7-5 at 3:11 and a minute later Denes Varga collected his brutality foul.

Match 20: 18:30, 1-4 Semifinal, CROATIA 4 SERBIA 7
Quarters: 1-2, 0-2, 1-3, 2-0

Referees: Doriel Terpenka (CAN), Fabio Toffoli (BRA).
Extra Man: CRO: 2/8. SRB: 2/4.
Pens: Nil.

CROATIA: Marko Bijac, Luka Bukic, Ivan Milakovic, Marino Divkovic, Ante Vukicevic, Ivan Buljubasic, Petar Muslim (1), Kristijan Milakovic (2), Ante Viskovic, Duje Zivkovic (2), Andelo Setka, Marko Macan, Ivan Marcelic. Head Coach: Ivica Tucak.
SERBIA: Stefan Zivodinovic, Strahinja Rasovic (1), Dimitrije Obradovic, Dusan Markovic (1), Gavril Subotic (1), Nikola Eskert, Dusan Mandic (2), Viktor Rasovic (1), Sava Randelovic, Nemanda Ubovic, Dusan Vasic, Srdan Vuksanovic (1), Dimitrije Risticevic. Head Coach: Dejan Savic.

CRO vs SRB - credit: Russell McKinnon

Serbia proved its worth and why it is the best team in the world this year. Winner of the FINA World League in Dubai in June and then winner of the European Championships in Budapest last month. What a summer! Now it’s another gold-medal final and for the third tournament running, Hungary will be the opponent. A wounded opponent at that, without Denes Varga, who collected a brutality foul today. However, this match was all about Serbia and its prowess around the pool. No matter who head coach Dejan Savic turns up with, he has a team of winners. Croatia opened through Duje Zivkovic, but there the goals dried up and Serbia started its juggernaut charge to the final. Viktor Rasovic’s lob from the middle of the pool and close, gave Serbia a 4-1 lead at halftime. The margin moved out to six as Srdan Vuksanovic scored from the deep left across cage at 3:01. Kristijan Milakovic broke a 21-minute drought for Croatia when he scored on extra-man from the left-hand-catch position at 2:24 in the third period. Serbia controlled the final quarter and only let up — or Croatia finally broke through — when Zivkovic scored his second on extra and his third with 40 seconds left on the clock. It was not Croatia’s day and it was Serbia’s.