Greece beat Serbia 6-4 in the final of the 2019 Men’s Junior (U20) Water Polo World Championships in Kuwait, successfully defending their title despite playing without their head coach.
After a comfortable 15-6 semifinal win over Croatia, the Greeks were looking for their second consecutive World Championship title at the U20 level and their third overall at this level. Playing without suspended head coach Theodoros Lorantos was an extra challenge for the Greek team, though assistant Nikolaos Karamanis stepped up to lead the players. Greece got off to a great start, leading 2-0 after the first period. They then went up 3-0 in the second period, before a late Serbian goal made it 3-1 going into halftime. A scoreless third period saw the score remain at 3-1 in favor of the Greeks.
In the fourth period, the Serbs reduced Greece’s lead to 3-2, but the Greeks quickly responded by going up 5-2. Serbia then quickly scored two goals, bringing the score to 5-4. Nevertheless, a goal from Konstantinos Kakaris with 2:19 left gave Greece a 6-4 lead, which would be the final score.
Ioannis Alafragis and Konstantinos Gkiouvetsis led Greece offensively with two goals each in today’s final. Gkiouvetsis and Dimitrios Nikolaidis each scored 20 goals throughout the tournament, where Greece won seven matches within nine days. As a result, both were named to the all-star team of the tournament. Alexandros Papanastasiou, who scored 16 goals throughout the tournament, was another Greek named to the all-star team. Goalkeeper Nikolaos Mitrakis was not only also named to the all-star team, but was awarded “best goalkeeper” of the tournament.
In addition to winning their second consecutive title and third overall, this was the seventh medal that Greece has won in the event. Besides having won gold on three occasions, Greece has also won silver twice, and bronze twice as well. With Greece now retaining the World U20 title while also currently holding the European U19 and World U18 titles, exciting things are in store for the future of Greek water polo.
by Andrew Stamas
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