Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee

Hungary is chasing its first World League title since 2004 – after that year only the former Yugoslavian states could clinch this trophy. Serbia came first 11 times in 13 years, the missing two went to Montenegro in 2009 and to Croatia in 2012. In this season, Montenegro ousted the Serbs in the qualification and now they are the ones who can maintain the Southern Slavoninans' streak as they will clash with the host Magyars in the final. The Hungarians overcame an extreme challenge from Japan to win a thrilling semi-final while Montenegro kept the game under control against Spain and can play for the gold for the first time since 2010. 

Tanamura came up with 16 saves in the Japanese goal

In the first semi-final, at halftime, only the showmaker could generate some noise in the Duna Arena otherwise the crowd was frozen in silence as Japan staged a brilliant 0-4 second period against Hungary and took a stunning 2-5 lead after two periods. The Magyars missed all their chances during this phase, the Japanese goalie did a great job - then the world championship silver medallists responded spectacularly and produced a 7-goal period, though the Japanese were still in the game at 9-8. They levelled once, had a chance to go even at 10-9 but at the end experience prevailed and Hungary closed down the game for a 11-9 win and a place in the final, for the first time since 2014. 

Before this competition day the second SF looked to be more exciting but comparing the two encounters, the Montenegrins' victory came a bit easier – at least they didn't have to overcome such headaches as their Saturday rival. They built this convincing win step-by-step, in the third they managed to take a three-goal lead and even the Spaniards reduced it to one late in the fourth, they didn't have a realistic chance to force a shootout and a great goal in the last minute secured the Montenerins' place in the final, for the first time in eight years.

The Montenegrin defence worked really well

In the first game of Day 5 Croatia hit back for its surprising defeat in the prelims to the United States and restored some pride by beating the Americans convincingly. Though there was not a lot at stake but the post-game symptoms after the bitter losses in the quarters (the Croats were edged out by Hungary in a shootout while the group winning US team suffered a shocking defeat against fourth placed and winless Japan) – one player from both teams were expelled with a red card and Croatian head coach Ivica Tucak was also sent away from the bench, just like the US assistant coach. There were some tensions, still, the world champions dominated the second half and their victory was never in danger.

The duet of Jesse Smith (USA) and Josip Vrlic – not really fitting for artistic swimming, rather for a tough water polo contest - Credit: Jozsef Szaka

The Aussies joined them soon to set up a fine match for the 5th place on Saturday - they did a clean job against Kazakhstan. The Sharks took firm control right from the beginning and didn't let the Kazakhs think of something similar what had happened last year when they upended the Aussies in the same phase of this tournament. The boys from Down Under went 4-1 up in the opening period and never looked back - maintained a 4-5 goal lead throught the game which turned into a scoring festival, stopping at 26 in total.

Day 5

(click on the games for detailed stats and play-by-play descriptons - game reports and picture gallery further below)

Semi-finals

Hungary v Japan 11-9

Spain v Montenegro 8-10

For places 5-8

Croatia v United States 10-7

Australia v Kazakhstan 15-11

Final day schedule

15.15 United States v Kazakhstan (Places 7-8)

16.45 Croatia v Australia (Places 5-6)

18.15 Japan v Spain (Bronze medal)

19.45 Hungary v Montenegro (World League Final)