Waterpolo: Croatia beats Serbia 10-7
in rowdy semifinal in Melbourne
March 30, 2007. Samir Barac (C) and Zdeslav Vrdoljak (L) of Croatia celebrate their victory against Serbia during their water polo semi-final match at the World Aquatics Championships in Melbourne March 30, 2007. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh (AUSTRALIA)
MELBOURNE, Australia: Police formed a security cordon around the pool deck and six fans were ejected when Croatia upset defending champion and Balkan rival Serbia 10-7 in the world water polo championships semifinal Friday. Melbourne's large Serbian and Croatian communities turned out in force for the match, wearing national colors and creating a boisterous, if sometimes tense, atmosphere at the Melbourne Sport and Aquatic Centre.Police and private security guards were also on hand in large numbers patrolling the venue. Several dozen more joined by mounted police stood guard at the main gates in a bid to deter clashes between the rival factions. Blocks of Serbian and Croat fans were separated at the either end of the stands, maintaining a continuous din of cheers, whistling and patriotic songs in their own languages throughout the match. The Serbs interspersed their cheering with chants of "Serbia! Serbia!" and "help us God," while the Croats called out "we Croats!" and "let's go to battle." Each goal was met with a deafening roar from either camp.
Miho Boskovic scored three goals Teo Dogas had two as Croatia dominated the Serbs, leading by as much as 8-3 heading into the final quarter. "We don't have a weak position in our team - we have strong defenders, strong shooters, strong center forwards, strong goalkeepers," said Croatia coach Radko Rudic. Vladimir Vujasinicov led Serbia with three goals. "I'm completely empty," said Serbian goalkeeper Zivko Gocic after the defeat. "I don't know what to say. We are devastated."The Serbian team came to the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre as clear favorite after adding the 2006 European title to its 2005 gold medal at the Montreal worlds. It also won a four-nation warmup tournament in February which also featured Greece, Spain and Russia.
Croatia will play Sunday's gold medal match against Hungary, which edged Spain 12-11 in extra time later Friday.
Peter Boros and Tamas Molnar scored goals in the first three-minute period of overtime to reach the final after the teams were tied 10-10 at the end of regular time. Earlier, the United States edged host Australia 10-9 to finish the meet in ninth place. Croatian-born Tomislav Tallan, who has lived in Melbourne for nine years, called his sister in the Croatian capital Zagreb immediately after the match.
"They are watching the game live in their apartment. We can't believe what has happened," said Tallan. "Serbia are our biggest rivals in the world. This is a special feeling, nothing compares to beating them. My sister said people are setting off fireworks and firing guns in celebration."
After the match, police closed a major road from the facility in an attempt to keep the fans separated. However, Serbian and Croatian fans exchanged jeers as they left, and there were several minor scuffles. Sporting events in Australia have previously been marred by clashes between ethnic Serbs and Croats, whose home nations fought a bitter war in the early 1990s. Most recently, Croatian and Serbian spectators kicked each other and used flag poles as weapons during scuffles at January's Australian Open tennis championship. Croatia and Serbia have steadily improved their relations after the 1991 war, which erupted when minority Serbs in Croatia - backed by Serbia - rebelled against Croatia's independence. The war ended in 1995, when Zagreb recaptured areas seized by Serb rebels.
HRVATSKA - SRBIJA 10:7 (3:1, 3:1, 2:1, 2:4)
HRVATSKA: Vićan, Burić 1, Bušlje 1, Vrdoljak, Kunac, Joković 1, Smodlaka 1, Đogaš 2, Marković, Barač 1, Hinić, Bošković 3, Pavić
Izbornik: Ratko Rudić
SRBIJA: Šefik, Prlainović, Gocić, Udovičić 2, Savić, Ikodinović, Nikić 1, Filipović, Ćirić, Šapić 1, Vujasinović 3, Korolija, Soro.
Izbornik: Dejan Udovičić
igrač više: Hrvatska , Srbija
peterci: Hrvatska -, Srbija-
Suci: Tulga (Turska), Turcotte (Kanada)
Just in CROWN fresh: Ivan Ljubicic, of Croatia, celebrates his win over Juan Ignacio Chela, of Argentina, Thursday, March 29, 2007, at the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla.
Formated for CROWN by Nenad Bach
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