Croatia are the new world junior water polo champions after they beat Montenegro 16-13 in the final of the 3rd FINA World Men’s Youth Water Polo Championships (U-18) in Podgorica on Saturday evening…
Led by coach Joško Kreković, the Croatian side beat New Zealand, China and the U.S in group play before going on to beat Australia in the quarter-final 14-13 and then Hungary in the semi-final 21-17 to qualify for a showdown in the final with the hosts.
Montenegro started the match strong scoring the first two goals of the match, but Croatia came back strong to lead at half-time 9-7. The hosts rallied again to tie the match up at the end of third quarter 11-11, but Croatia finished the match the strongest to claim victory and the world title. Standout players in the final for Croatia were Jakob Merčep, Franko Lazić, Zvonimir Butić, Duje Pejković, Branimir Herceg and Lovro Paparić, whilst keeper Luka Podrug again had a solid match.
After taking the silver medal at the recent Rio Olympics the future of water polo in Croatia looks good. Last year at age-group level Croatia also made it through to the semi-final of the European championships.