2012 Youth World Championships’ Impressions
December 8, 2012 4 Comments
Men’s quarter-final matches:
CROATIA 17 : 7 USA
In this match Croatia dominated from the start and by the end of the first half the score was 8 : 1 in their favour. In the preliminary rounds, the US team had a strong game against one of the favourites, Hungary, having lost that match by only one goal. Today, the American team did not offer any resistance and was outclassed in all departments. Their physical form seemed to be low whilst the Croatians look like they are gaining form and are getting stronger with each game.
So far, the Croats seem the most consistent team of all contenders for the medals. The biggest test for them will be a semi-final match against Italy. Up until this point in time, these two teams looked the strongest to me. However, whilst the Croats have been displaying their traditional classical style that is based upon the fundamentals of the great Yugoslav school of water polo with fine individual skills and precise tactical movements, the Italians played with more flair showing much more spectacular performances. To me, their match against Serbia in the preliminary rounds, which they won convincingly 10 : 4, was the best at this tournament in terms of not only overall skills but the creativity and thinking that was shown by the Italian players. It seems that this country’s junior development system is well tuned for nurturing talents.
ITALY 6 : 3 ROMANIA
Because of the above-mentioned reasons, there was an expectation that the match against Romania would be an easy one for the Mediterraneans. After all, they disposed of the Serbs in great style and Romania was lucky to escape with a one goal win in the match against an inexperienced team of Uzbekistan in which the latter missed an equalizing penalty in the last second of that match.
But the subject match became a reminder that this is a world championships for the youth and consistency is not a feature to be expected from under-18 year olds. The Italians were nowhere near as good as in their previous encounters whilst the Romanians were a completely different team and looked like they were capable of causing one of the major upsets of the tournament by denying their strong opponents a spot amongst the top four teams. It will be interesting to see if the Italians will be able to bounce back and display again the spectacular type of water polo in their semi-final match against Croatia.
An interesting fact is that Romania is coached by Viorel Rus who was one of his country’s best ever players. At the Olympic games in Montreal-76 he scored two centre-forward goals against the then main favourites the USSR thus denying the USSR a spot among the top eight teams. He was also the coach of the Romanian team that knocked-out Australia from Olympic participation for the first time in history at the Qualification Tournament in Berlin in 1996.
Italy is coached by European, world and Olympic gold medalist, Amedeo Pomilio (178 cm height), who was one of the smallest players in the game and one of the smartest.
GREECE 8 : 9 SERBIA
To me, that was the most exciting match of the quarter-finals. Both teams’ players displayed excellent individual skills scoring spectacular goals and the public was kept on their toes up until the last 20 seconds. When it looked like the Greeks would win the match, the Serbs capitalized on their opponents’ inaccuracies by exploiting their mistakes and coming from behind with two late field goals to wring the much needed win from the hands of the Greeks. The semi-final match between Serbia and Hungary promises to be very interesting. Not the least from the stand point of the rivalry between the two great schools of water polo as represented by their youngsters.
The Serbian team is coached at this tournament by Dejan Savic who himself was a great centre-back both for the former Yugoslavia and, later, Serbia.
AUSTRALIA 7 : 14 HUNGARY
Based upon the previous games by Hungary, I expected a more even result in this game. The Hungarians had a difficult game against the US team managing to win that match by only one goal (10:9). But they seemed to have gained form now by displaying a dominant performance against the Australian team who seemed to have difficulty adjusting to the high pace offered by their opponents. The Europeans dominated from the beginning and had not much difficulty achieving the desired result.
The Hungarians are coached by the Montreal-76 Olympic gold medallist, Gyorgy Horkai. He was one of the pivotal players in the famous Hungarian team of the 70s. Even though Gyorgy was one the smallest players in terms of size, he was what can be called the ‘brain’ of the team with lethal left-hand shooting.
The semi-final matches promise to be very interesting.
UZBEKISTAN 9 : 7 KAZAKHSTAN
That result is worth mentioning as it was the match between the two neighbouring nations. The rivalry between them stems from the days of the former Soviet Union and for both it was a game of principle. Kazakhstan started the match strongly and led 4 : 1 at the beginning of the second quarter. But serious tactical mistakes primarily in failing to neutralize the Uzbeks’ best player, Kirill Rustamov, who scored 8 goals out of his team’s 9 led to the unexpected loss by the more fancied Kazakhs who have much better funding these days than their regional counterparts.