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© Henk Swinkels

Croatia and Italy in new-look Olympic final

The clash for the gold medal of the 2012 Olympic Games here in London, Great Britain will be a final game we never had before on men's senior level as Italy will finally play Croatia on Sunday afternoon. In the afternoon session Croatia gained quite a clear 7-5 victory against Europe's number two Montnegro. Later on the reigning World champion Italy took a 9-7 victory against European champion Serbia. The new-look final game between Croatia and Italy will be accompanied by the rematch of the  2008 bronze medal clash between Montenegro und Serbia.

The second last day of waterpolo competition at the 2012 Olympic Games, here in London, Great Britain started off with a close victory for Spain against the 2008 silver medallists USA in the semi-finals for fifth place as goals from Spanish lefthander Blai Mallarach and Felipe Perrone in the fourth quarter proved too much for the Americans, who pulled back to an one-goal deficit through Ryan Bailey who scored with twenty seconds remaining but it was too late as Spain will continue to play for finishing fifth at these Olympics and will now face the winner of Hungary vs. Australia. Spain's Felipe Perrone was the game's high-scorer with three goals while both Jeff Powers and Layne Beabien scored a pair for Team USA.
 
Croatia qualified for the 2012 Olympics final for the first time since Atlanta 1996 defeating Montenegro 7-5 in the first semi-final of the day. Man of the match was, once again, Croatian goalie Josip Pavic who proved to be the reason for many not converted Montenegrin goal scoring opportunities. Although the recent FINA World League winners put up a strong defensive effort once again, it was their goalkeeper who stood in the way at the moments that Montenegro did managed to fire a shot at him. It was the reason that Ranko Perovic-coach side only scored 5 goals out of no less than 31 attempts. After trailing 5-1 at half time, the 2012 European silver medallists delivered a late surge but it seemed as if Croatia was in control throughout that second half as well, eventually winning 7-5. Sandro Sukno finished the game as Croatian top scorer netting two while Aleksandar Ivovic and Vladimir Gojkovic scored two each for Montenegro. Europe's number two can still top their performance from four years ago with winning the bronze medal battling the loser of the second semi-final: Italy vs. Serbia.
 
In the ranking matches for the places 5-8 Olympic record winner Hungary narrowly escaped another loss.  World's number nine Australia was trailing for almost the complete first three quarters, but took an 8-7 and 9-8 lead in the final period. A double strike by Peter Biros and Norbert Madras in the 31st minute still created a narrow 10-9 victory so that the 2008 champon can still go for the fifth place in this year's final ranking.

                                       

The second semi-final saw something of an upset as reigning world champions Italy eliminated havy gold medal favorites Serbia 9-7. Just like showing signs of no ultimate form, the Serbs were not living up to their potential against Italy who continued their recent good form, as they did in Shanghai in 2011 beating the Serbs in that final for the world championships title. A good opening quarter, including two goals by lefthander Valentino Gallo, had Italy leading Serbia 4-2 before they kept up pace with the Serbs in the second quarter as Milan Aleksic and centre-forward Slobodan Nikic pulled back but the reigning world champion responded through Maurizio Felugo and the third goal from Gallo for the 6-4 score at half time. A critical third quarter saw the Italians even extend their lead as the Serbian captain Vanja Udovicic intially looked to got Serbia a little back in the game but saw his hopes crushed as driver Christian Presiuctti and centre-forward Danijel Premus goals to lead 8-5 going into the final eight minutes of regular time. As earlier in the game, Serbia looked to pull back as lefthander Filip Filipovic scored one to bring his team within two (8-6), but Cuba-born centre-back Amauryz Perez scored a dagger with just over a minute left in the game. Another strike from Udovicic with 50 seconds remaining came to late as Italy will advance to the Olympic final trying to get their country an Olympic gold medal for the first since the epic final at the Barcelona '92 games beating home team Spain.    
 
 
XXX Olympic Games 2012 at London, Great Britain

Today's results

Friday, 10 August - MEN

35. 14.20: United States (L31) vs. Spain (L33) 7-8 (1-3, 1-2, 2-1, 3-2) - Semi-final 5th - 8th place
37. 15.40: Croatia (W31) vs. Montenegro (W33) 7-5 (3-1, 2-0, 2-2, 0-2) - Semi-final 1
36. 18.30: Hungary (L32) vs. Australia (L34) 10-9 (4-2, 2-4, 1-0, 3-3) - Semi-final 5th - 8th place
38. 19.50: Italy (W32) vs. Serbia (W34) 9-7 (4-2, 2-2, 2-1, 1-2) - Semi-final 2

Pictured: Croatia's defence with goalie Josip Pavic as their star (top photo) and Italian top scorer Valentino Gallo against Serbia (bottom photo)

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