GWANGJU, South Korea (Reuters) – Italy won the men’s water polo gold medal at the World Aquatics Championships after an effervescent performance gave them a 10-5 win over rivals Spain in Saturday’s final.
It was the fourth world title for the Italians, who pulled away after a balanced first period and finished the 16-team tournament with a perfect 6-0 record.
Both teams secured berths in the 2020 Olympic Games by reaching the final and the Italians celebrated their second gold medal under coach Alessandro Campagna, who jumped into the pool with his jubilant players to celebrate.
In the day’s curtain-raiser, 2017 champions Croatia clinched the bronze medal with a 10-7 defeat of Hungary on the back of six goals from Maro Jokovic.
Felipe Perrone netted twice for the Spaniards in the opening period which ended 2-2 but from there on it was a lop-sided contest as the rampant Italians rifled in three successive goals in the second.
Another 3-0 run after the break gave the champions a massive 8-3 lead, as the Italians shared the workload in attack while they stifled the Spaniards at the other end.
Spain were unable to launch a fight back in the fourth quarter and French-born centre Michael Bodegas put the icing on the cake for Italy with a spectacular effort with his back facing goal.
Following the women’s defeat by Australia in Friday’s third-place match, Hungary’s men suffered the same fate and missed out on a podium finish after the left-handed Jokovic tormented his markers throughout the contest.
The 31-year old winger, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, kept finding the back of the net from all angles while goalkeeper Marko Bijac pulled off a string of good saves at the other end.
Olympic and European champions Serbia, who deployed a second-string side after qualifying for next year’s Olympics by winning the World League in Belgrade last month, finished fifth after a 13-9 win against Australia.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Christian Radnedge)