Serbia gets revenge on France, Montenegro power past Germany

Credit: European Aquatics

Serbia took a noble revenge for the stunning loss in Split 2022 and beat France with a brilliant second-half performance on the first day of the crossovers. This secured them a spot in the quarters and also a place in the top division for 2026. Montenegro followed their ‘brothers’ with an easy victory over Germany.

Crossovers: France v Serbia 10-14, Montenegro v Germany 10-5

Serbia’s loss to France was the most stunning result 15 months ago in Split, it happened in the very same crossover tie and sent the Olympic champion side (rather what remained from the big team after several aces called it a day, once the Tokyo Games were over) to the matches played for the 9th place.

Serbia staged a strong start, to send an early message that it was not going to be the same story.

A penalty and a man-up goal gave them a 0-2 lead in less than four minutes, but it was their strong and aggressive defending which seemed to have left the French stranded.

Credit: European Aquatics

Still, a penalty by Thomas Vernoux broke the ice for the French a minute later and even though Radomir Drasovic sent the ball home from another extra, Michael Bodegas also put one away next for 2-3.

And soon in the second, the Split miseries were back.

Alexandre Bouet equalised one minute into the quarter from a 6 on 5, then they killed a Serb man-up and Ugo Crousillat found the back of the net to put France ahead.

Dusan Mandic’s fine lob quickly brought the Serbs back to even, then Nikola Jaksic retook the lead for his side at the middle of the period.

France’s Duje Zivkovic’s cool finish in the last second of their next man-up made it 5-5 and Thomas Vernoux was on target too – the French were 4/4 in this period in 6 on 5s.

Credit: European Aquatics

The Serbs missed their shot after a time-out, but not the last one though when Mandic fired in 0.9sec from time, so it stood tied at halftime at 6-6.

The Serbs came back strong, Drasovic could score from the perimeter even though three defenders tried to sink him, then Nemanja Ubovic tipped the ball in from the 2m line from a man-up, and in 66 seconds the Serbs jumped to an 8-6 lead.

The French bench called a time-out and it helped, Bouet converted a man-up again to halve the distance.

The next five minutes turned into a gruelling swimming contest, shots got lower and lower as the players were tiring, both sides missed a 6 on 5 apiece.

The first real error put an end to this phase – Vernoux’s bad shot set up a 2 on 1 for the Serbs, ending in a penalty which Drasovic buried for 7-9, with 1:05 on the clock and they held it till the last break.

Soon, the lead was three, as Jaksic made no mistake in a 6 on 4 right away in the fourth.

In a flash, it was 7-11, as Mandic hit another man-up to end a counter – indeed, the French couldn’t do much harm six on six.

Once they earned a man-up, they could pull one back, but their 8:06 minutes long silence cost them the match.

Especially since the Serbs looked very confident in front too, with Jaksic netting another man-up, then they managed to kill a man-down and Marko Radulovic’s sneaky shot also made its way to the net for 8-13 – it was over with four minutes to go.

The contrast between the two halves was really sharp – after 6-6, the Serbs staged a 4-8 rush in the second which was decisive.

They were much more collected, produced an outstanding shooting percentage (14 for 25, 56%), while the French had 30 shots and scored only 10 – and the number of saves (4-11) was also telling.

The win propelled the Serbs back to the first division and set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash against Hungary.

Credit: European Aquatics

The other crossover clash of the day promised less excitement as Montenegro and Germany are definitely a division apart.

The Germans did well in the first half, however, especially in the second period when they climbed back from 4-1 to 4-3 and created some hellish moments for the favourites.

Then two late man-up goals put the Montenegrins back on track and in the third they rushed away with the win.

First, they hit two in 42 seconds for 8-3, then added two more later in the period, so they staged a 6-0 rush altogether, more than enough to secure the QF spot.

Credit: European Aquatics

Indeed, their players thought the same – they did enough – and they were done with scoring goals.

However, the Germans, missing players due to sickness (had only 12 entered) didn’t have any more left in the tank to narrow the gap significantly.

This sets up a fine quarter-final between Italy and Montenegro – and most probably this win also secured the Montenegrin’s berth at the World Championships in Doha next month.