Photo by Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL
January 14, 2024 – Croatia has done it again! The Barracudas beat Hungary in Zagreb on Sunday for a spot in the European Championship final against Spain!
Croatia and Hungary met in the second semi-final of the European Water Polo Championships in Zagreb on Sunday. In the first semi-final match, Spain beat Italy 7-4.
Interestingly, the semifinalists in Zagreb are the same as the Euros in Split in September 2022: Croatia, Hungary, Italy, and Spain. Of these teams, only Hungary already has a spot in the 2024 Olympics, and for Croatia to book a spot in Paris, they must take the gold medal in Zagreb against Spain.
Croatia won the sprint in the first quarter and thus won the first attack. Kharkov scored the first goal of the game for 1-0 Croatia. Both sides were unsuccessful in their next attacks. Halfway through the first quarter, it was still 1-1. Vukicevic put Croatia ahead again for 2-1 with 3 minutes on the clock. Hungary equalized at 2-2 with 38 seconds to go. The first quarter ended 2-2.
The second quarter had another scoreless start, until Marinic-Kragic scored for 3-2 Croatia two minutes in. Croatia blocked Hungary’s chances, preventing them from equalizing, and Bijac was again a menace in goal. Fatovic made it 4-2 with just under two minutes left until halftime. The second quarter ended 4-2.
Hungary won the sprint in the third quarter and scored for 3-4. There wasn’t a goal in the third quarter until Croatia was awarded a penalty with under 3 minutes to go. Marinic-Kragic scored for 5-3! Hungary scored for 4-5 with two minutes to go, then Marinic-Kragic scored another penalty to make it 6-4. Buric’s shot rocketed under the crossbar for 7-5 with a minute left. The third quarter ended 7-6 for Croatia.
Croatia won the sprint in the final quarter and the first attack… and Loncar scored for 8-6! Less than two minutes later, Fatovic took Croatia to +3 -and it was 9-6! Bijac made another crucial save with under four minutes to go and Butic scored for 10-7 in the next attack! Two more blocks in the Croatian defense, and Croatia was comfortably ahead in the final three minutes. And Vrlic scored for a spot in the final with 60 seconds left – 11-7!!! The final score was 11-8.
Croatia and Spain will meet in the final on Tuesday in Zagreb. Time TBA.
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