Aussie Sharks star Billy Miller takes on the Serbian defence (Pic Ian MacNicol)

Men - 2013 FINA World C'Ships Wk 2: Aussies finish eighth

04.08.2013

Australia’s men’s water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, have finished their campaign on a sour note going down to Serbia 13-7 in their seventh versus eighth classification game at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

The Sharks were gallant in the opening half pushing Serbia to 4-5 at the main break, only to see the Europeans inflict a horror run of eight goals to three to consign Australia to eighth place.

Despite recording their best place finish at a FINA World Championship since 2003, the Sharks will see the final result as the one that got away.

After their heartbreaking extra time defeat to Croatia in the quarter-finals, the Australians struggled to recapture their best form against Greece and Serbia.

Head coach Elvis Fatovic was left to rue the missed chances, but believed his team had made great inroads on their European rivals.

“We played really well until the quarterfinals. After that I was a little bit disappointed with my team. After this championship we are one step closer to the European teams, as we have played against great teams. Our goal was to play well and we did very well for five games. We had a hard group with no easy games, so now my players are really tired,” Fatovic said.

“Today we played a good first half when we still had enough energy to competing against Serbia. However Serbia was able to convert their opportunities from our bad mistakes and won the game easily.

“I am satisfied with our presentation in the first five games but unfortunately after our game against Croatia we could not maintain our intensity and consistency."

Sharks skipper Rhys Howden was equally dejected by the team’s 13-7 loss and said the boys deserved better after their gruelling feats in Europe and Barcelona.

"Unfortunately we didn’t achieve the win we wanting to give ourselves a better end to our seven week tour," Howden said.

“They were a much better team on the day with their defence working overtime to stop our attempts. We lacked everything in attack and it's very disappointing finish this way.”

Howden was again one of the standouts for Australia bagging two goals, while centre forward Joel Swift furthered his credentials as a player of the future with two powerful strikes at the two metres.

The Australians will now regroup and begin preparations for their three year journey to Rio2016, with many lessons to be learnt from the world championships.

London Olympian Johnno Cotterill admitted the Sharks may have got ahead of themselves after the quarter-final loss to Croatia, but was confident the team would be better for the experience.

“In this championship we could have beaten Croatia and in the semi-finals we would have faced Hungary, against whom we tied previously, so we saw ourselves in the final. The defeat really hurt us. In the last two games we lost respect in ourselves but we have three years from now to improve as a new team,” Cotterill said.

In the final men’s results, Hungary claimed their third world title with victory over Montenegro, while Croatia defeated Italy for the bronze.

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Aussie Sharks

Joel Dennerley, Richard Campbell, Matthew Martin, Johnno Cotterill, Nathan Power, Jarrod Gilchrist, Aidan Roach, Aaron Younger, Joel Swift, Tyler Martin, Rhys Howden (c), William Miller, James Clark

Result: Australia 7 lost to Serbia 13

Quarters: 2-3, 2-2, 2-4, 1-4

X Man for: Australia scored 3 from 6

X Man against: Serbia scored 4 from 8

AUS scorers: J Swift 2, R Howden 2, A Roach, A Younger, B Miller

5th-8th playoff: Aussies lose to Greece

The Australian men’s water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, have failed to reproduce their stunning quarter-final performance against Olympic champions Croatia crashing back to earth with a disappointing 11-9 loss to Greece in their fifth to eighth playoff game on Day 12 at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

With their game usually grounded on solid defence the Sharks were a mere shadow of their self, giving away a 7-4 lead at half time with the normally reliable James Clark switched for fellow keeper Joel Dennerley at 3:20 in the second term.

The loss sees the Sharks relegated to the seventh versus eighth classification game where they will take on a shell-shocked Serbia who tumbled from their lofty perch as Olympic bronze medallists with consecutive defeats to Montenegro and Spain.

London stalwart Johnno Cotterill was gutted by Australia’s performance saying it was a big disappointed and believed it was a step backwards for the team after their strong results against Hungary and Croatia.

“This is the biggest disappointment of the tournament. We have played to a plan all tournament and today it failed. We lost our composure, started rushing and dropping balls — this is the first time we have not played to our best,” Cotterill said.

Coach Elvis Fatovic agreed saying the Australians had failed to recover from their heartbreaking loss to Croatia in the quarter-finals and did not play with the same intensity in defence.

“Unfortunately we are still in shock from our loss two days against Croatia. We started to play soft defence for two quarters. By the time we started to play better it was too late and we deserved to lose,” Fatovic said.

“We must strive to be more aggressive in our defence and without this we have no chance at breaking anyone.”

Flash is required!

Greece had control of the first period with two extra man goals as Clark appeared to have an off day.

Richard Campbell and Aidan Roach scored either side of an Ioannis Fountoulis penalty goal to make it 4-3 early in the second, but when Evangelos Delakas, Angelos Vlachopoulos and Kyriakos Pontikeas stretched the score to 7-3 Australia was on the back foot and Dennerley was subbed in.

Campbell did his best to inspire his troops with his second of the game and 10th of the tournament with a strike late in the half, and when Jarrod Gilchrist converted from the right post and Aaron Younger netted in extra man the margin was back to 7-6.

Rhys Howden then stepped up to the plate with a goal after a time out to equalise at 7-7 midway through the third.

The intensity continued with the two teams trading blows. A pair to Greece was split by Gilchrist’s second for 9-8 at three-quarter time, only for Younger to equalise soon after to make it 9-9 - but that’s where it ended.

A series of errors by Australia and consecutive goals to Delakas and Vlachopoulos saw Greece resume control at 11-9 to seal the game.

Captain Howden said Australia would have to lift again if they were to finish the tournament on a high.

“We battled our way back into the game but too many silly lapses in concentration cost us at both ends of the pool. We now have one more game to focus on and try and get a good result,” Howden said.

Australia’s game versus Serbia is at 11pm on Saturday night AEST, with the Aussie Stinger gold medal final against Spain at 6.15am on Saturday morning AEST.

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Aussie Sharks

Joel Dennerley, Richard Campbell, Matthew Martin, Johnno Cotterill, Nathan Power, Jarrod Gilchrist, Aidan Roach, Aaron Younger, Joel Swift, Tyler Martin, Rhys Howden (c), William Miller, James Clark

Result: Australia 9 lost to Greece 11

Quarters: 1-3, 3-4, 4-2, 1-2

X Man for: TBA

X Man against: TBA

AUS scorers: A Younger 3, R Campbell 2, J Gilchrist 2, A Roach, R Howden

Quarter-final: Aussies edged out in extra time thriller against Croatia

A coat of varnish has separated the Australian men's water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, from one of the greatest victories in world championship history, eventually going down to Olympic champions Croatia 7-6 in extra-time in their quarter-final showdown, after Sharks vice-captain Richie Campbell hit the right post on extra-man attack with 18 seconds remaining in normal time.

Australia had earlier led 4-2 and 5-3 minutes into the deciding term, but as all good champions do Croatia responded and equalised at 5-5 only to see Campbell's last ditch strike scrape the upright to send the game into extra time.

The match was there for taking in extra-minutes and despite trailing 6-5, Australia rallied through a neat conversion by Campbell on eight metres to square things up, but that’s where the fairy-tale ended.

After a double exclusion and a second Australian exclusion, Petar Muslim delighted the Croatian supporters when he accepted a rebound off Sandro Sukno to steal the lead at 7-6 with 0:54 remaining.

The Sharks had one last chance to equalise after back-to-back timeouts – the second a dubious call given Australia had already used three time outs – but Croatia's defence held strong as the Sharks failed to fire.

On paper the quarter-final loss will read as the one that got away! If only Campbell’s tap-in at 5-5 went in? The Sharks will now play Greece in their fifth to eighth playoff, while Croatia advances to the semi-finals against Hungary.

But for most Australians the result is a statement that our boys are here to play! Australia’s Croatian coach Elvis Fatovic said he was ecstatic with the team's performance, and whilst gutted at the end score, believed it was a feather in their cap to push the Olympic champions all the way.

“I am very proud with the game. We had great defence against the Olympic gold medallists who are one of the best attacking teams in the world. We didn’t have much luck in the last quarter and on some occasions experience is very important. But we are on the right path to finish the world championships in a good position and all in all I’m so proud of the team’s performance,” Fatovic said.

Flash is required!

It was the sort of result Australia dares to dream about! Knocking off the Olympic champions, with their Croatian coach Fatovic at the helm ready to deliver the killer blow against his countrymen!

The match was tight throughout. Paulo Obradovic opened for Croatia on extra after four minutes with Billy Miller levelling the score in the shadows of quarter time with a strike to the top right.

Sukno scored on the first attack of the second quarter and more than six minutes later Aidan Roach slotted in from the top on extra to make it 2-2.

Aaron Younger was the sole scorer of the third period converting in extra-man and when Miller incredibly made it 4-2 early in the fourth the upset was on the cards.

Maro Jokovic breathed life into the stunned crowd when he scored from deep right after a counter, but Australian captain Rhys Howden responded with a rifle shot from seven metres to restore the two goal buffer.

Croatia kept fighting and eventually levelled through Jokovic and Luca Loncar – the latter the easiest of goals after the Sharks were left stranded by a bizarre refereeing decision.

As it were, the Aussies still had two extra-man opportunities to seal the win, one at 1.33 and one at 20 second, but landed neither with a gutted Campbell left to rue his luckless shot.

“Right now I´m very tired, exhausted, and very disappointed. It has been a very even game as always at this point of the championship, but they have more experience and this helped them. I could have scored the victory goal, but I wasn´t lucky enough and I´m very sad,” Campbell said.

Miller ended the game with two goals with Howden, Younger, Roach and Campbell all notching singles.

Australia’s 5th-8th clash against Greece is at 1130pm on Thursday evening AEST, with Australia’s women’s team, the Aussie Stingers, to play their semi-final against Russia at 4.15am tomorrow morning.

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Aussie Sharks

Joel Dennerley, Richard Campbell, Matthew Martin, Johnno Cotterill, Nathan Power, Jarrod Gilchrist, Aidan Roach, Aaron Younger, Joel Swift, Tyler Martin, Rhys Howden (c), William Miller, James Clark

Result: Australia 6 lost to Croatia 7

Quarters: 1-1, 1-1, 1-0, 2-3 (5-5 FT), (1-1, 0-1 XT)

X Man for: Australia scored 2 from 5

X Man against: Australia scored 3 from 9

AUS scorers: B Miller 2, R Howden, R Campbell, A Younger, A Roach

Elimination final: Aussies to play Croatia

Australia's men water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, have produced their best performance in 10 years at the FINA World Championships defeating Germany 8-4 in the elimination round in Barcelona, Spain.

The Sharks led from start to finish to progress to the quarter-finals where they will play European giants and Olympic champions Croatia. The last time the Australian men qualified for the final eight was in 2003 - also in Barcelona - where the boys finished seventh, second only to their fourth place finish in 1998.

And the Australians will be brimming with confidence too, with the Sharks sure to receive an edge from their Croatian coach Elvis Fatovic. Fatovic was an assistant in Croatia’s London 2012 triumph, and while playing down Australia’s chances in Tuesday’s quarter-final, was happy with the Sharks’ win against Germany.

"It was great to win against Germany and now get to progress to the top eight. We have been working hard as a team and all the hard work is starting to pay off," Fatovic said

“Our defence was great. At times we may have even been too passive in our attack but this was compensated by our strong defence.

"We will try our best against Croatia but no team in the world compares to them in overall skill so I am worried.

"But I am positive in our progress and the amount of experience we are gaining as a team throughout this tournament."

Australia had the better defence, the better goalkeeper and better strike power and thoroughly deserved their win over Germany.

Australia controlled the opening quarter through power shots from captain Rhys Howden and Aaron Younger, and when Howden bagged an early double from deep right it was 3-1.

Germany replied soon after to make it 3-2, but that was as close as they got as Johnno Cotterill, Aidan Roach and Younger combined for three straight goals to make it 6-2 midway through the third.

In that time Sharks keeper James Clark was sensational, deflecting anything that came his way en route to superb numbers of 11 saves from 15 attempts.

Germany rallied late in the piece to reduce the margin to 6-4, but with 2:22 left on the clock Joel Swift fired a back hander from centre forward, followed a minute later by a second to Cotterill to seal the game.

Flash is required!

Australian vice-captain Richie Campbell was pleased with the victory and said it was satisfying to adhere to the game plan and stick to the coach’s tactics.

“We worked on our defensive tactics especially for this game against Germany and it really paid off. We did exactly what the coach wanted,” Campbell said.

Fellow Olympian Billy Miller agreed with Campbell saying defence was key to the win.

"We have based our game on defence. Today all the team made an incredible effort and our keeper was amazing. All the matches are very important and we need to keep on playing in this way,” Miller said.

Australia’s quarter-final showdown with Croatia is at 1am on Wednesday morning AEST, with the Aussie Stingers women’s quarter-final versus Greece at 1am on tomorrow morning.

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Click here for 2013 FINA World C'ship - Aussie Sharks image gallery

Aussie Sharks

Joel Dennerley, Richie Campbell, Matt Martin, Johnno Cotterill, Nathan Power, Jarrod Gilchrist, Aidan Roach, Aaron Younger, Joel Swift, Tyler Martin, Rhys Howden (c), Billy Miller, James Clark

Result: Australia 8 bt Germany 4

Quarters: 2-0, 2-2, 1-0 3-2

X Man for: Australia scored 2 from 4

X Man against: Germany scored 4 from 7

AUS scorers: R Howden 2, J Cotterill 2, A Younger 2, A Roach, J Swift