Greece’s men’s water polo team won the silver medal on the last day of the Tokyo Olympics, after its 13-10 defeat, the first in these Games, at the hands of Serbia.
It was a clash between the two clearly best teams at the competition. And it was a great achievement for Greece that it was one of those teams, having made it to the final for the first time in a distinguished history of Olympic appesarances and earning its first Olympic medal ever. Still, it reached the final 17 years after the women, who did it at the Athens Games, in 2004.
Dimitris Skoubakis opened the scoring on a nice effort in an extra player situation, where a player is temporarily ejected for 20 seconds (this is also called a power play) before the Serbs equalized in similar circumstances. Team captain Filip Filipovic gave the Serbs the lead with a long-range shot and then the referees judged that a shot by Christodoulos Kolomvos had not crossed the line and, on the break, Strahinja Rasovic scored to make it 3-1. But, after the referees consulted the VAR (video assistant referee) Kolomvos’ goal counted and Rasovic’s disallowed as having never happened and the score was changed to 2-2.
Serbia then scored three unanswered goals: Nikola Jaksic gave them a 3-2 lead from the forward position, Filipovic scored on a penalty and Dusko Pijetlovic made it 5-2. Greece got one back with Angelos Vlachopoulos, but Jaksic scored his second and Greek goalie Emmanouil Zerdevas had to make a great save to prevent the gap from opening further. Thus, a hectic opening 8-minute quarter ended with the Serbs leading 6-3.
Greek captain Yannis Fountoulis scored on a power play, but Dusan Mandic made it 7-4. Greece then went on its own three-goal tear to equalize 7-7 through Vlachopoulos, Costas Mourikis and Costas Giouvetsis. Serbia did enter the halftime break ahead, 8-7, after a goal by Andrija Prlainovic.
In the third quarter, Mandic score on a power play, before Mourikis answered to close the gap to 9-8. Foundoulis equalized at 9-9 on a power play with 3:43 to go, and then both teams exchanged shots that hit the post. Prlainovic put Serbia ahead (10-9), Zerdevas made another great save but Costas Genidounias’ shot hit the post near the end of the quarter.
Greece equalized yet again early in the final period with Skoubakis, but Serbia scored the final goals in 3 minutes 20 seconds, from 7:28 to 4:08 to go. Prlainovic scored his third goal with a penalty, Jaksic scored on a powerful play and Mandic closed the scoring with his own third goal, which he celebrated by head-butting his captain, Filipovic.
It was the ideal finale for Serbia, which lost two of its first games at the group stage in the Olympics and seven of whose players, aged 33-37, are retiring from the national team, if not from club competition. Filipovic, 34, will join Greek club Olympiakos next season, playing for Greek national team coach Theodoros Vlachos.