The Croatia men’s water polo players will not go to California in June for the World Cup final tournament. In the match that decided the second trip to the Super Final, Hungary beat Croatia 13:10 and thus secured their trip to Los Angeles. Italy and the USA also qualified from Croatia’s group.
Croatia was not good from the beginning. Hungary led throughout the game, from 0:2 to 1:5 at the beginning of the second quarter. It didn’t help that the Hungarian left winger Gergo Zalanki had a perfect evening, scoring 7 goals from 9 attempts. He went on to win the “Player of the Match” award.
There were other aggravating circumstances, like the early dismissal of Kharkov due to three personal fouls. This significantly weakened Croatia.
Nevertheless, Croatia did not give up in front of a sold-out Zagreb crowd, even when Hungary took a 10:6 lead a minute before the end of the third quarter. Moreover, with four consecutive goals (Lazić, Burić, Vrlić, and Bašić) Croatia equalized at 10:10, exactly 3 minutes and 17 seconds before the end.
However, Hungary reached 12:10 in one minute through Vigvari and Zalanki, and the last goal for the final 13:10 was scored by Manhercz just 21 seconds before the end, on an empty net. That was no longer so important because goalkeeper Popadić, who replaced Bijač in the last quarter, logically went on the attack.
“We lost the match because we opened it badly. Especially in the attack. We conceded only three goals from the first 10 extra man plays. We were throwing blocks, unprepared, limp. We didn’t go in as hard as I expected and what I was looking for. Then, during the whole match, we spent a lot of time. What I have to congratulate the guys on is the character they showed. They expressed their desire, equalized, and then in the end we obviously can’t move forward. We were confused offensively, and Zalanki, who only arrive on Sunday, killed us. He obviously benefited from the rest,” said coach Ivica Tucak.
“We didn’t even start the game well, and we were already losing 5:1. Again, we showed character, and got back to 10:10, but then… A little deconcentration or fatigue because we spent a lot of effort to equalize, which then cost us by conceding a goal or two too easily,” added Marko Žuvela.
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