SPORTS

Serbia beats US, while Montenegro and Hungary secure spots in Olympic water polo quarterfinals

08/04/2012 08:47 EDT | Updated 10/04/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Vanja Udovicic scored three goals and Filip Filipovic chipped in with two more to give Serbia an 11-6 win over the United States on Saturday in men's Olympic water polo.

Serbia scored the game's first three goals to take control and then opened up an 8-3 lead by doing the same to start the second half to hand the Americans their first loss in London and move to the top of Group B.

"The result is not important, but the style of how we play is," Udovicic said. "We played very aggressively and to concede just six goals against a team like USA, that is something."

Serbia's style was nothing if not impressive on Saturday. The gold medal-favourites coming into the Olympics, the Serbs outmuscled the Americans on both ends of the pool, got a string of solid saves from goalkeeper Slobodan Soro and used sharp shooting and a quick counter in the attack to dominate.

The win lifted Serbia into first place in Group B with seven points and secured a spot in the quarterfinals. It can wrap up the group's top seed for the knockout stage by beating Romania in its last preliminary-round game on Monday.

The U.S., which had already guaranteed itself a spot in the quarterfinals, is one point behind the Serbs, and plays three-time defending champion Hungary in its last group game.

"Serbia's a great team, they're very good. Clearly right now they're the favourites," U.S. captain Tony Azevedo said.

He said the Americans did not play to their strengths against Serbia.

"We're known for not giving up counter goals, set goals, and putting away our six-on-five, and we did the opposite today — we gave up six counter attack goals — that's unheard of," he said.

Two other teams, Montenegro and Hungary, both won their Group B games earlier Saturday to join the U.S. and Serbia in the quarterfinals.

Aleksandar Ivovic scored three times for Montenegro to beat Romania 12-8. The 2012 European championship runner-up, Montenegro has impressed so far in London, recovering from an opening loss to the U.S. to beat Hungary and then draw with Serbia.

"In the first game against the U.S. we didn't play well because of maybe a bit of tension at the Olympics," Ivovic said. "But we've played better in every game and I think we can be in very good shape for the quarterfinal."

Montenegro plays winless Britain in its final preliminary-stage game Monday.

Hungary, which dropped its first two games before squeaking out a tough win over Romania on Thursday, advanced to the quarterfinals by beating winless Britain 17-6 behind four goals from Tamas Kasas and Norbert Madaras.

While the four teams that will represent Group B in the quarterfinals are set, the seeds are still very much up in the air. The one certain is that Serbia can lock up the top spot with a win against Romania.

The men's field is broken into two groups of six teams. The top four from each group advance to the quarterfinals.

On the other side of the bracket, Croatia stayed unbeaten and secured the top spot in Group A with its 11-6 win over Australia.

"Our form is improving. That's the most important because no matter who comes from the other group it will be a very, very hard quarterfinal," Croatia captain Miho Boskovic said.

Maro Jokovic led the way with three goals for Croatia, which won the FINA World League title last month.

While the Croats said locking up the No. 1 seed gives them a small boost, they stressed that it means little practically because of the quality of the teams in Group B.

"Maybe psychologically it helps, but the opponents in the other group are really strong so it doesn't really matter," Sukno said.

Two other teams in Group A — Spain and Italy — also wrapped up spots in the quarterfinals.

Filipe Perrone Rocha scored twice to push Spain past Greece 11-9, while four players netted two goals for Italy in a 9-6 win over Kazakhstan.

Spain plays Italy in their final group game Monday, and the winner will earn the No. 2 seed out of the group for the quarterfinals. Spain can also secure the second spot with a draw.

Greece, meanwhile, has just two points from four games, but can still advance by winning its final preliminary-stage game Monday against Australia.

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Ryan Lucas can be reached on twitter at www.twitter.com/relucasz

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