Croatia will play Hungary in water polo final

Updated: March 30, 2007, 10:49 AM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Police formed a security cordon around the pool deck and six fans were ejected when Croatia upset defending champion and Balkan rival Serbia 10-7 in the semifinals of the world water polo championships on Friday.

Melbourne's large Serbian and Croatian communities turned out in force for the match, wearing national colors and creating a boisterous, if sometimes tense, atmosphere at the Melbourne Sport and Aquatic Centre.

Police and private security guards were also on hand in large numbers patrolling the venue. Several dozen more joined by mounted police stood guard at the main gates in a bid to deter clashes between the rival factions.

Blocks of Serbian and Croat fans were separated at the either end of the stands, maintaining a continuous din of cheers, whistling and patriotic songs in their own languages throughout the match.

The Serbs interspersed their cheering with chants of "Serbia! Serbia!" and "Help us God," while the Croats called out "We Croats!" and "Let's go to battle."

Miho Boskovic scored three goals and Teo Dogas had two as Croatia dominated the Serbs, leading by as much as 8-3 heading into the final quarter.

"We don't have a weak position in our team -- we have strong defenders, strong shooters, strong center forwards, strong goalkeepers," Croatia coach Radko Rudic said.

Vladimir Vujasinicov led Serbia with three goals.

"I'm completely empty," Serbian goalkeeper Zivko Gocic said. "I don't know what to say. We are devastated."

Croatia will play Sunday's gold-medal match against Hungary, which edged Spain 12-11 in extra time later Friday.

Peter Boros and Tamas Molnar scored goals in the first 3-minute period of overtime to reach the final after the teams were tied 10-10 at the end of regular time.

Earlier, the United States edged host Australia 10-9 to finish the meet in ninth place.

Five Croatia fans were ejected from the venue in the opening minutes of the semifinal after letting off a flare in the stands. Another unidentified fan was also ejected for unruly behavior.

After the match, police closed a major road from the facility in an attempt to keep the fans separated. However, Serbian and Croatian fans exchanged jeers as they left, and there were several minor scuffles.

Sporting events in Australia have previously been marred by clashes between ethnic Serbs and Croats, whose home nations fought a bitter war in the early 1990s.

Most recently, Croatian and Serbian spectators kicked each other and used flag poles as weapons during scuffles at January's Australian Open tennis championship.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press