July 21, 2023 – The Croatia water polo team beat Japan 17:12 in the third round of Group C at the Water Polo World Champs in Japan, securing second place and a match against Montenegro in the round of 16 on Sunday.
In the first half, it was an even match, and Croatia struggled against a persistent and fast Japan, who scored four goals from the counterattack. At halftime, Croatia led with a minimum of 7:6, but then in the second part of the third quarter, with a 5:0 run from 10:9, Croatia took a 15:9 lead before the final quarter, solving the question of the winner. By the end of the game, Japan managed to reduce the score to the final 17:12.
Konstantin Kharkov was Croatia’s top scorer with four goals. Three goals were scored by Luka Bukić, and two each by Rino Burić, Jerko Marinić Kragić and Zvonimir Butić. Seiya Adachi led Japan with four goals.
In the first match in group C, Hungary defeated Argentina 21:13 as expected and secured first place in Croatia’s group with a maximum of nine points. Croatia finished second with six, and Japan in third with three. Argentina remained without points.
“It’s always like this with Japan, it’s awkward. It’s amazing how much energy and swimming there is. They really drive you crazy. The most important thing is that we won. There were problems during the game. They held Hungary for an even three quarters. What we wanted in this match, we got. Montenegro? If anyone knows them, I know them. I was a coach there, in Herceg Novi. I really respect that young team, I respect my colleague Gojković, otherwise my former captain in Jadran from Herceg Novi when I was leading them. I would have preferred if we met later, say in the semi-finals. The round of 16 is the first elimination match, and they are often the most difficult in the tournament. We don’t have much time for rest. I told the players before the game against Japan that we have a path, either Montenegro and Greece or Serbia and Italy. It was like that before Japan because if we had lost, they would have gone to Serbia and the winner of that would go to Italy. We chose this path, going to Montenegro. I know their qualities, as well as their flaws, but it will be a difficult match. I watched their game against Serbia, they were dominant in the first two quarters, it’s unbelievable to me how they lost in the end. It additionally shows us that they have trump cards, truth and flaws. I hope that we will use these flaws,” said coach Ivica Tucak.
In Group D, in the match for second place, Serbia defeated Montenegro 17:15. Although Montenegro led 5:0 and 8:4, Serbia managed to tie the game at 13:13 by the end of the game and won the penalty shootout. In the last round, Spain defeated the Republic of South Africa 27:6 and won first place with all three victories and qualified directly for the quarterfinals.
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