Men's water polo semifinals recap: Croatia, Serbia to battle for gold medal
Semifinal 1 – Croatia 12, Montenegro 8
Just like on the women’s side, the men’s water polo tournament will have the defending gold medalists playing in the final game to defend their title.
Croatia, who won gold in London four years ago, defeated Montenegro Thursday in the semifinals 12-8 to clinch a berth in the gold medal match for the second straight Olympics.
The Croatian team jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but Montenegro scored three goals of their own in less than two minutes to tie the game up.
After two more ties in the second quarter, Croatia took a 7-5 lead into halftime, and never let Montenegro get within two goals the rest of the way.
Andro Buslje led Croatia with four goals on five shots. Teammate Andelo Setka added three goals. The Croatians were playing without center back Damir Buric, who was suspended a game for a brutality foul committed in the quarterfinals against Brazil.
After saving 15 shots in the quarterfinals, goalkeeper Marko Bijac added 10 more Thursday to bring his total to 52 for the tournament. Bijac has a 61 percent save rate in Rio.
Darko Brguljan and Aleksandar Ivovic had three goals each for Montenegro. Goalkeepers Milos Scepanovic and Zdravko Radic, who had a save rate of 55 percent in six previous games, combined for just two saves on 14 shots Thursday.
The loss puts Montenegro in the bronze medal match for the third straight Olympics. The Montenegrins have lost in the bronze game the last two Olympics.
Semifinal 2 – Serbia 10, Italy 8
Four years ago Italy defeated Serbia in the Olympic semifinals to move on to the gold medal match, relegating Serbia to a bronze medal.
This time around, the two teams met again in the semifinals, with Serbia out for revenge, and they left no doubt which was the better team.
Serbia jumped out to a 6-0 lead against Italy Thursday on their way to a 10-8 win and a spot in the Rio Olympics gold medal match.
Serbia had a comfortable 7-2 lead heading into the fourth quarter when they saw that lead start to gradually slip away. Italy scored six times in the final eight minutes, including three unanswered goals with under four minutes remaining.
Even though Serbia failed to find the net in the final four minutes, their lead at that point was too great for Italy to overcome.
Slobodan Nikic, Filip Filipovic and Andrija Prlainovic had two goals each to lead Serbia. Branislav Mitrovic added nine saves in goal.
Allessandro Velotto, Valentino Gallo and Christian Prescuitti had two goals each to lead Italy.
Thursday’s semifinal was Serbia’s fifth in the last five Olympics. They won bronze and silver in 2000 and 2004 as Serbia and Montenegro, and bronze in the last two games as just Serbia.
Since the last games, Serbia has won four of the last five international tournaments, including the 2015 World Championships. A win Saturday would be the first gold medal ever for Serbia in the Olympic Games.
Italy will play Montenegro in the bronze medal game Saturday noon ET.
Croatia and Serbia will play in the gold medal match Saturday at 4:50 p.m. ET.
Hungary 13, Brazil 4
Hungary had a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals after taking the top overall seed in the tournament in group play.
Though they didn’t have a chance to medal, Hungary was still able to get back in the win column Thursday with a 13-4 rout of host Brazil in the classification rounds.
Balazs Erdelyi had four goals on four shots to lead Hungary, who had nine different players make the score sheet. Goalkeeper Viktor Nagy added 16 saves.
Brazil’s Adrian Baches had two goals. Slobodan Soro had 10 saves.
Greece 9, Spain 7
Facing Hungary in the fifth place gme will be Greece, who came away with a 9-7 win over Spain in Thursday's other classification round game.
Greece never let Spain get within a goal in the match, despite also never growing their lead beyond three.
Christos Afroudakis and Konstantinos Mourikis had two goals each to lead the Greek squad. Greece shot just 2-15 on shots from beyond five meters. Konstantinos Flegkas added seven saves in goal.
Spain's Guillermo Rios had four of his teams goals after shooting 11 times in the match. Daniel Pinedo and Inaki Vicente had a combined 10 saves on 19 shots in goal.
Greece and Hungary will face off in the fifth place game Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Brazil and Spain will play in the seventh place game Saturday at 10:40 a.m. ET.