FINA Men’s World League: Italy Beat Greece, whilst Montenegro and France Record Wins

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Italy had too much quality for Greece as they beat them 11-8 in Tbilisi (1-1, 4-3, 4-3, 2-1)

Italy showed why they are fancied as one of the best team’s in the world by beating Greece by three goals this afternoon. Whilst Greece played well in parts, a lack of guile in front of goal, mixed with Italy’s strong defensive performance meant the result got away from Theodoros Vlachos’s side.

Despite many missed shots from Italy, they looked incredibly dangerous going forward, and, in the end, their attacking threat was too much for Greece to handle.

We had to wait several attacks before the first goal of the game. Italy won the swim-off via Francesco Di Fulvio, but Alessandro Velotto’s resultant shot was saved by Greek starting keeper, Konstantinos Galanidis. Greece then missed shots from Konstantinos Genidonias and Mario Kapotsis.

Italy eventually put the ball in the net halfway through the quarter when Greece suffered two exclusions in ten seconds (Skoumpakis and Kolomvos) allowing Di Fulvio to put away his first of the game.

Greece nearly equalised twice from the pit, but Italian keeper, Marco Del Lungo, who has just signed for Pro Recco, pulled off an outstanding double save at close range, first from Konstantinos Gouvis and then Christodoulos Kolomvos. Then Greece did eventually score their first of the game from the penalty spot when Niccolo Figari was penalised at centre-back. Ioannis Fountoulis converted into the bottom right-hand corner to make the score 1-1.

Vincenzo Dolce had a guilt-edge chance right at the end of the quarter when he found himself open in the pit, but his shot was tame and straight at Kostas Galanidis.

Into the second period, Italy won the sprint again. This time it was Recco’s Pietro Figlioli who was the quickest over 15m. Italy then took the lead again when Stylianos Argyropoulos was excluded, which gave the Spanish-born Gonzalo Echenique the chance to shot from the right-wing. His cross cage shot wrong-footed the Greek keeper and gave Italy a 2-1 lead.

But Greece responded immediately through their own man-up – Konstantinos Gkiouvetsis found himself with space on the left, and his cross cage shot was too precise for Del Lungo. They then added another a minute later through another man up. Niccolo Figari was sent out giving Ioannis Fountoulis his second of the game from a central position.

Italy, who have a star-studded side, were not fazed. Francesco Di Fulvio netted his second to reply immediately for the Settebello with a fiery bouncing shot to the far side of Kostas Galanidis’s goal. They then went on to take the lead through Stefano Luongo, whose bouncing shot from position five rippled in the roof of the Greek net to make it 4-3.

No sooner had recent Olympiacos recruit, Christodolous Kolomvos, then put his side back on a parity from the pit, Italy made it 5-4 when Vincenzo Dolce’s pass found Matteo Aicardi – whose soft shot from the pit slipped through the hands of Greek keeper, Konstantinos Galanidis. Fountoulis had a chance right at the end of the half to equalise for his side, but his shot on the buzzer was kept out well via a strong Vincenzo Dolce block.

At the third time of asking, Greece won the swim-off via Alexandros Papanatasiou, and Italy made full use of the possession by equalizing from Konstantinos Gkiouvetsis’s nearside bounce.

But Italy then pulled away to a two-goal lead. Matteo Aicardi’s second of the match was to follow as he converted when Konstantinos Genidounias was excluded before Georgios Dervisis handed Di Fulvio an opportunity to complete his hat-trick from the 5m penalty, which he did emphatically.

Greece had a chance to claw one back when Pietro Figlioli was excluded in the pit, but Fountoulis could only hit the left-hand post. But it wasn’t long before Alexandro Papanastasiou made his mark in the game when he converted from position four to take Greece to only one goal behind the Italians.

However, Italy had a three-goal advantage before long. Firstly they scored with a goal via a leaning, near-side shot from Pietro Figlioli to make it 8-6 with a minute and a half to go. Then their ninth goal was a bizarre turn of events. When Konstantinos Gouvis was wrapped on three majors, the ball spilt into the path of Nicholas Prescuitti who beat Galanidis with the oddest of flicks from less than a meter out.

Konstantinos Genidounias got one back for the Greeks right at the end of the quarter with a powerful shot from 6m to take the score to 9-7 going into the last quarter.

Sandro Velotto won the final sprint, but Dolce’s shot could only strike the left-hand post from distance. Italy’s Francesco Di Fulvio then had two chances to score another from two central positions, but both were saved with ease by Galanidis.

Greece had a timely opportunity to reduce the deficit to one goal when Niccolo Figari was wrapped after three personal fouls. So good a chance it was, that Theodoros Vlachos called a timeout, but Ioannis Fountoulis’s shot from the left-hand side was easily blocked.

Di Fulvio then went up the other end and put the ball in the net, but Montenegrian referee Stanko Ivanovski adjudged the shot to have been well inside 6m.  A minute later, however, Di Fulvio did get his fourth of the game when he had time and space to measure a bouncing shot under the arms of Kostas Galanidis.

Greece needed the next goal to stay in the game, and they got it from the 5m penalty mark. Nicholas Prescuitti was ejected, and Konstantinos Genidounias netted his second.

But Gonzalez Echenique effectively put the game out of Greece’s reach. He soon restored Italy’s three-goal lead from the right-hand side, when his delicate shot rattled in off the far left-post, making the score 11-8 to his side.

Greece will hope to play better tomorrow afternoon against Kazakhstan, whilst Italy finishes their final group game against France.

Kazakhstan 11-12 France (2-2, 2-3, 3-6, 4-1)

In the first game of day two, France nearly blew a five-goal lead in the last quarter against a spirited Kazakhstan. The French owe a large number of thanks to their captain, Ugo Crousillat, for his excellent performance. They also owe a lot of gratitude to their centre-forward, Thomas Vernoux, who has looked in fine form so far in the competition. He scored four in the game.

The Kazakhs probably should have at least drawn the match with the opportunities that they had in the last ninety seconds. They hit the post three times with shots from Srdjan Vuksanovic, Dushan Markovich and Murat Shakenov. A good save during the same time from French keeper, Clement Dubois, also denied Vukasnovic his fourth goal of the game, and Kazakhstan their equalizer. 

Despite an even match that resembled a tug of war throughout the first half, France pulled away in the third quarter thanks to two goals apiece from Ugo Crousillat and Thomas Vernoux, as well as a powerful finish in the pit from Remi Saudadier.

Mehdi Marzouki then added another in the last quarter to seemingly put the result beyond doubt, but Kazakhstan rallied well and scored four unanswered goals in the last period to make the French very nervous in the last moments.

But in the end, it was too little, too late for Kazakhstan, as France claimed their much-needed first points of the competition. They face the daunting prospect of Italy tomorrow, for which they will need to be at their best to get anything from the match. For Kazakhstan, they play Greece next.

Georgia 18-9 Montenegro (2-8, 4-6, 1-3, 1-2)

After winning their opening game against Japan yesterday, hosts Georgia were humbled against Europe’s highest-ranked team, Montenegro.

Aleksandar Ivovic was a leading scorer (4), as he has been for much of his career. Yesterday, the experienced centre-back celebrated his 300th game for his country in which he has scored over 600 goals. Also netting four goals for Montenegro was Primorac’s 22-year-old Dusan Matkovic.

The positive from Georgia’s point of view will be that they managed to score eight goals against a solid defensive side. Novi Beograd’s Nika Shushiashvili scored three, whilst the best goal of the game by far was from Fabio Baraldi – who scored with a backhand from the right that went in off the crossbar.

Georgia will have to recover quickly from this defeat and concentrate on their big clash with the USA tomorrow, whilst Montenegro will face Japan in their final game in the group stage.

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