2013 Men’s World League Super-Final

The 2013 edition of the men World League’s Super-Final was held in Chelyabinsk, Russia. It is a city of 1.1 million located in the Southern Urals – a region where Europe meets Asia. One part of this administrative territory is European the other is Asian. It is one of the Russia’s gateways to Siberia. Till the 1890s Chelyabinsk was a small town. Due to the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway, the beginning of the 20th century saw Chelyabinsk became the greatest transport center connecting Central Russia, the Urals and Siberia. During the Great Patriotic War this city played a very important role as a centre of the defence industry – at the time more than 200 plants were relocated to this region from the Western parts of the country. The largest tank production industry was started here.  Nowadays Chelyabinsk is the center of the dynamically developing Chelyabinsk region.

Turning to water polo, Brazil finished in last position at these championships, although the South Americans did look a bit stronger than at the 2012’s WL Super-Final. Their best game was against one of the tournament’s favorites, Hungary, which Brazil lost, 4:8. Mirko Blazevic – who for many years was an assistant coach of the Serbian National team – is the new Brazilian coach. Hopefully, the team will continue improving under his guidance to become a force to be reckoned with come the 2016 Rio Olympic games.

Japan has impressed with its unorthodox way of playing both in individual contests as well as collective defensive and attacking actions. Among their achievements was the win over European powerhouse, Montenegro, on the first day in a penalty shoot-out, 16:15, after a draw during regular time. The team has one strong centre-forward – 25 year old Yusuke Shimizu – who was able to put a lot of pressure on the opposition. However, when he was not in the water Japan employed mobile attacking patterns. Not only were they earning exclusions through fast movements but also scoring many ‘action’ goals.  Mitsuaki Shiga (22 year old), Koji Takei (23), Atsushi Arai (19) although not sizeable were very skilful at the forefront of Japan’s exciting and entertaining brand of water polo.

China started the tournament strongly and achieved several impressive results in the preliminary rounds. They easily beat Brazil, 18:3, drew with Russia in regular time to then beat the  host nation in the penalty shoot-out, 12:11, and lost to US in a penalty shoot-out, 11:13. The Chinese team looks better organized and are playing without basic mistakes which characterized its performance in the past. In a second encounter with Russia, however,  China lost the match for the fifth placing by a large margin, 17:8.

Russia was unlucky not to make the top four bracket due to a penalty shoot-out loss to Montenegro in a quarter-final game. The host team was progressively improving its perfromance throughout the tournament to produce  their best water polo in the last 3 matches. It is a young team with several talented players who have the potential and are promising to grow into a world class side to once again become a powerhouse that Russia used to be. Unfortunately, Russia will not be present at the upcoming world championships otherwise it would have been good experience for its players.

The USA team played its first big official tournament under a new coach – former National Serbian Head-coach – Dejan Udovicic. Even though several experienced players – among them Tony Azevedo and Jesse Smith – were missing the team showed that it had good potential and will be a serious force at the upcoming world championships in Barcelona next month. The Americans beat eventual silver medalist, Hungary, in a penalty shoot-out on the first day. They made top four and lost the Bronze medal match to Montenegro.

Montenegro played at this tournament without 5 leading players. Among those missing from the list was one of the best centre-forwards in the world, Boris Zlokovic, and captain, Nichola Janovic. (The latter was captain of the Yugoslav Junior team at the world championships in Kuwait -1999 when Australia beat them on the way to making top two at that tournament.) It is not clear if these and other players will be joining the Montenegrin team at the upcoming WC in Barcelona. It is a very strong team but their attack and defence will undoubtedly be strengthened if Zlokovic and Janovic rejoin them.

Hungary has lost the services of its greats – Tamas Kasas, Gergely Kis, Peter Biros, Zoltan Szecsi, Adam Steinmetz and others. The new Head-coach, Tibor Benedek, has a rather difficult job of trying to match the record of the previous generation’s achievements of which he has been a significant part. At this tournament his team managed to make top two having won the preliminary rounds in its group and beating Montenegro in the semi-final match.

Serbia won the Gold medal match against Hungary by a significant margin, 7:12. The title holders produced their best performance when it counted most with leaders, Filip Filipovic, Vanja Udovicic, Zivko Gocic and Slobodan Nicic leading the charge with class and precision. It was a successful debut for the new Head-coach, Dejan Savic, who last December took Serbia’s youth team to a Bronze medal at the world championships in Perth, Australia.

World League Cup

Overall, it was a good rehearsal for the participants on the eve of the world championships to be held next month. The Barcelona-2013 WC promises to be very interesting as it will be the first global event in the new quadrennial Olympic cycle testing new players and coaches.

Final standing: 1 – Serbia, 2 – Hungary, 3 – Montenegro, 4 – USA, 5 – Russia, 6 –China, 7 – Japan, 8 – Brazil.

About Erkin Эркин Shagaev Шагаев
European, world, Olympic champion, two times World Cup winner Чемпион Европы, мира, Олимпийских игр, двукратный обладатель Кубка мира

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