Serbia will defend its Olympic crown after they were triumphant at the 2019 Men’s Water Polo World League. Overall, eight teams reached the Super Final round and competed in two groups and then the elimination round. The Men’s Water Polo World League Super Final was held in Belgrade, Serbia from June 18th to June 23rd 2019.
Group A saw the largest upset where Canada defeated Hungary 10-9 on the opening day. Hungary would recover and defeat Spain in a penalty shoot-out and Japan to finish second in the group. Spain won the group with victories over Japan and Canada and despite their promising start Canada would lose 17-7 to Japan to ultimately finish fourth.
Group B went more expected, but both Croatia and Serbia had mount to comebacks against Australia after being down in the first quarter. The two nations won 11-9 and 12-8 respectively. The match between the two ex-Yugoslavia rivals was intense with Croatia taking a 5-4 lead at the half. A strong third quarter by Serbia proved to be the difference maker as the nation ultimately topped the group with a 11-10 victory. Australia finished third thanks to a 14-5 victory over Kazakhstan
The only seeding upset in the quarterfinals was Australia’s penalty shoot-out victory over Hungary. Despite Hungary holding a 5-1 lead at halftime, Australia spent the second half catching up, leaving the game tied at the end. The other matches saw victories by Croatia (20-14), Spain (19-10) and Serbia (20-5) over Japan, Kazakhstan and Canada respectively. The semi-finals saw victories by Serbia over Australia (16-11) and Croatia over Spain (10-8) to set up a second meeting between the two rivals.
The final was a very close affair with Serbia taking a 6-5 lead at half-time. Croatia used the third quarter to take the lead. Serbia would respond in the fourth quarter by tying the game and taking the lead with 17 seconds remaining thanks to Filip Filipovic to win the title 12-11. The bronze medal was won by Australia whom defeated Spain 11-10.
Serbia will be looking to win its second gold medal as an independent nation and to stretch their Olympic medal streak, which includes the time when Serbia and Montenegro competed together to six. The next opportunity for a nation to qualify in water polo will be at the World Aquatics Championships to be held in July.