© Henk Swinkels

Croatia wins first ever Olympic title

The final day of the 2012 Olympic Games here in London, Great Britain created a new Olympic champion in men's waterpolo. World's number three Croatia took the gold medal, when the players from the Adriatic Sea gained quite a clear 8-6 victory in the final game against Italy. Ratko Rudic and his players completed an 8-0-0 record in the Water Polo Arena to give Croatia the first Olympic gold medal in this discpline. European champion Serbia defended the bronze medal, beating their neighbours from Montenegro in a real nailbiter by one goal, 12-11.

After a pretty huge collection of bronze medals and fourth places, Croatia now took their fourth major senior title after victories in the 2007 World Championships, the 2010 European Championships and this year's FINA World League. Head coach Ratko Rudic finally gained his fourth Olympic gold medal with the third nation. He also finished top with Yugoslavia in 1984 and 1992 and Italy in 1992 so that he now the successful international coach at all. In the 1980s he also coached Goran Sukno, the father of today's gold medallist Sandro Sukno. Three-time Olympic champion Italy missed the historical chance to level four-time winner Great Britain in the annals of this game, but gained their first Olympic medal since the 1996 Games when the team was still coached by Rudic.
Just like in Beijing in 2008, Serbia took the bronze medal defeating Montenegro 11-12. In a hectic game, Montenegro was already ahead by three goals, 11-8-. But the Serbs stormed back in the final quarter and took the win through unaswered goals from Slobodan Nikic, captain Vanja Udovic and Filip Filipovic (2). Attempts by veteran players Vladimir Gojkovic and Aleskandar Radovic for the Montenegrins in the dying seconds did not fall. The game saw many exclusions as Serbia finished the encounter without their coaches and with just eight players as Vanja Udovicic and Montenegro's Mladjan Janovic got exclusions with substitutions in the final phase but the Serbs prevailed for the win. Filipovic was his team's top scorer with three while Aleksandar Ivovic confirmed a strong tournament with a team-high three goals on the other end but had to settle for the hated fourth place. It was the second time the Montenegrins lost a tight battle with Serbia in a major final as the Dejan Udovicic-coach side proved too strong in the 2012 European championships final in January in Eindhoven, Netherlands as well winning 9-8.
On the final it was Australia that finished a seventh place overall beating USA 9-10 in the classification match. The Aussie Sharks prevailed on a late surge from the Americans who trailed 8-4 after three quarters but came close in the final period scoring five goals. The last one though, scored by Jesse Smith, came too late as only seven seconds were left on the clock and the Beijing 2008 silver medallists USA finished in eighth place in London. In the second game, outgoing champions Hungary took the fifth spot defeating Spain 8-14. And like in the match before, the losing side tried for a comeback in the final phase but in this case, the difference was to big as Hungary led no less than 4-12 after three quarters thanks to a nice team effort with six players scoring two goals for the Magyars. On the other side, Spain's Marc Minguell was the game's top-scorer with three. Later on Serbia and Montenegro will battle for the bronze medal while Croatia and Spain are concluding the tournament in the London 2012 gold medal match. Read more for today's results. 

XXX Olympic Games 2012 at London, Great Britain

Today's results

Sunday, 12 August 2012 - MEN
39. 10.20: United States (L35) vs. Australia (L36) 9-10 (1-3, 2-2, 1-3, 5-2) - Classification 7th - 8th place
40. 11.40: Spain (W35) vs. Hungary (W36) 8-14 (1-4, 2-3, 1-5, 4-2) - Classification 5th - 6th place
41. 14.30: Montenegro (L37) vs. Serbia (L36) 11-12 (2-3, 3-1, 5-4, 1-4) - Bronze Medal Match
42. 15.50: Croatia (W37) vs. Italy (W38) 8-6 (1-2, 2-0, 2-1, 3-3) - Gold Medal Match

N.b.: Times are London local time.

Pictured: Olympic champion Croatia.

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