The Croatia water polo team jumped into Rotterdam’s Zwemcentrum pool for the second time on Monday, just 24 hours after an impressive performance against Romania to open the competition. Recall, Croatia’s 16:6 victory against Romania kicked off a strenuous eight days of water polo in the Netherlands for the Olympic qualifying tournament. The three top teams will secure a spot in Tokyo this summer.
On Monday, Croatia met the Netherlands, a team that surprised the national team of Germany the day before (11:10).
Croatia kicked off the match with a goal by Josip Vrlic for 1:0 in the first minute, and Maro Jokovic increased Croatia’s lead to 2:0 with 5:28 to go. Javier Garcia scored for 3:1, followed by two more goals for Jokovic for 5:1 with a minute to go. Two goals by Luka Bukic in the final minute saw Croatia leading 7:1 into the second quarter.
Loren Fatovic and Lovre Milos opened the second quarter with goals for 9:1. Andro Buslje scored for 10:2 with 5:45 to go. Bukic and Fatovic scored for 12:3, and Milos scored for 13:4 with two minutes to go.
Bukic increased Croatia’s lead to 16:5 with 6:42 to go in the third quarter, and Vrlic scored for 17:5 one minute later. Milos scored for 18:5 and Bukic for 19:6 to end the third quarter.
Jokovic opened the final quarter with a goal for 20:6. Fatovic made it 21:7 with 4 minutes to go. Rino Buric scored for 22:7 with two minutes left. Luka Loncar scored for 23:8 with a minute and a half to go in the match. Buric scored his second goal of the game for 24:8 with less than a minute left, and Ante Vukicevic scored the final goal of the match for 25:8.
Croatia will meet France (Tuesday, February 16, at 8:30 pm), Russia (Wednesday, February 17, at 2:30 pm), and Germany (Thursday, February 18, at 8:30 pm) next.
Following the group stage, the quarterfinal stage will commence on Friday, February 19, in which the four best teams from each group will meet. The pairs will be determined by their positions in the standings (A1 – B4, A2 – B3, A3 – B2, and A4 – B1).
The four winning teams will play in the semifinals on February 20. The finalists of the qualifying tournament, as well as the national team that wins the match for third place on February 21, will qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are scheduled from July 24 to August 8, 2021.
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