FINA World Championships: Croatia Beats Serbia for Semifinal Spot!

Daniela Rogulj

Updated on:


Since Croatian independence, the Croatia water polo team has played against the national teams of 38 countries. Croatia has a positive ratio against 36 of them, but two have always been better – Hungary and Serbia, the latter of which Croatia met in the FINA World Championship quarterfinals on Wednesday in Budapest. 

Croatia and Serbia have met many times at the World Championships alone, including in 1998 in Perth – 6:6 (Group), in 2005 in Montreal – 4:5 (semifinals), in 2007 in Melbourne – 10:7 (semifinals), in 2009 in Rome – 11:12 (semifinals), in 2015 in Kazan – 4:11 (final), and in 2017 in Budapest – 12:11 (semifinals). 

Both national teams have been significantly rejuvenated since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics last year, when Serbia took home the gold medal. 

“Croatia has shown potential and energy, they are a young team and on a good path to develop into a very competitive team,” said water polo legend Ratko Rudić in an interview with HRT before the match. 

The former Croatia coach also shared his recipe for victory against Serbia, the current Olympic gold medalist. 

“It is also a new team, they have two top players, Mandic and Jaksic. The task is to neutralize the two of them, if we succeed, Croatia has great chances,” Rudic believed. 

Croatia was convincing against Georgia in the FINA World Championships round of 16 earlier this week, and Serbia finished first in their group and did not play that phase of the competition. 

Match report 

1st quarter 

Croatia won the sprint and thus the first attack of the match, which resulted in an attacking foul and Serbia’s ball. Kragic scored the first goal of the match for 1:0 Croatia with 5:36 on the clock. Popadic made three brilliant saves in goal to keep Croatia ahead. With 3 minutes left, Popadic continued to deny Serbia a goal. Serbia finally scored with 1:19 on the clock for 1:1. The first quarter ended at 1:1. 

2nd quarter 

Croatia won the sprint again to start the second quarter. Zuvela scored for the Croatia lead with 5:22 to go. Serbia equalized 20 seconds later. Kragic scored his second goal for 3:2 Croatia with 4:37 to go. Serbia equalized for 3:3 one minute later. Kharkov scored a penalty for Croatia for 4:3 with 3:13 on the clock. Serbia came back for 4:4 with 2:39 to go. Vrlic scored for 5:4 in the next attack. Croatia went into halftime leading 5:4. 

3rd quarter

Serbia won the sprint and scored in the first attack for 5:5 with 7:44 on the clock. Vukicevic scored for 6:5 Croatia with 6:56 left. Krapic scored for +2 (7:5) with 6:02 on the clock. Croatia was on fire – Vrlic scored for +3 (8:5), though Serbia scored in the next attack – 8:6. Lazic scored for +3 again – 9:6. Serbia came back to -2 in the next attack (9:7). Mandic scored a penalty for Serbia to put them behind by just one goal – 9:8 with three minutes to go. Lazic scored for +2 Croatia with 1:48 on the clock (10:8). Serbia scored for -1 with 52 seconds left in the quarter. Croatia went into the final quarter leading 10:9. 

4th quarter 

Serbia won the sprint and the first attack of the final quarter but it was Bukic to score first for 11:9 Croatia! Serbia scored for -1 again with 6:28 to go. Zuvela was brilliant, scoring his second goal for 12:10 Croatia moments later. Another extra man success for Croatia saw Basic go back up to +3 with 4:45 left to go in the match. Serbia scored for -2 (13:11) with just over two minutes left in the match. Fatovic lobbed the Serbia keeper for +3 with 1:55 on the clock! Serbia scored for -2 with a minute left. Serbia was unable to score in the next attack and Croatia secured the 14:12 win for a spot in the semifinals! 

Croatia will play the winner of Spain – Montenegro played after this match. 

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated sports section


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment