South Africa 13
(4-5, 3-2, 2-3, 4-4)
Tiny Malta’s name is surely ringing a bell in European waterpolo circles.
This is certainly the belief of many followers of the game after yet another honour when wresting the EU Nations Waterpolo Cup from previous holders South Africa after yesterday’s 14-13 victory at the National Pool.
This time it was a heroic performance by the locals when beating the odds to land the prize at the expense of the strong South Africans.
The absence of Jerome Gabarretta and Nicholas Bugelli was a strain on our already thin resources. Coach Karl Izzo must have been at his wits’ end trying to rotate his units and at the same time conserve their energies.
To make matters worse, he had to do without Mark Meli after he was excluded with substitution for unwarranted remarks, the second time in succession that this happened.
However, the hosts were plucky enough to overcome this handicap besides conceding three early goals which were a sort of ‘bonus’ for the visitors.
Matthew Zammit, scorer of another seven goals – he bagged a total of 28 to top the overall scorers’ list – lifted his team-mates’ ego as the team battled bravely to redress the early imbalance and then forge regularly ahead till the very end.
The South Africans, who like Malta had a couple of players fouled out but only towards the end, fought grimly to save their faces but Malta, led by the superb duo of Jordan Camilleri and Aurelien Cousin, would not buckle.
Ben Plumpton again belied his age while Michael Spiteri Staines had the satisfaction of inserting his name in the scorers’ list.
At the end of the match, Matthew Zammit acknowledged his colleagues’ contribution.
“This was a collective achievement without which I could not have been top scorer and voted as best player of the tournament by all the coaches,” Zammit said.
South Africa: F. Conversano, E. Le Roux 2, D. Card 5, I. Badenhorst 1, R. Olver, J. De Carvalho 1, L. Rabie, N. Downes, D. Whyte, P. Le Roux 3, J. Evezard 1, N. Schooling, T. Mthembu.
Malta: N. Grixti, P. Borg, M. Meli, M. Zammit 7, M. Spiteri Staines 2, J. Camilleri 1, B. Plumpton 1, A.Cousin 2, M. Rizzo, D. Zammit 1, R. Coleiro.
Referees: F. Armins (Denmark), M. Castrilli (Switzerland).
(1-3, 2-5, 1-4, 2-4)
(1-1, 3-1, 2-2, 0-2 – Lithuania win 4-3 on pens)
(1-1, 3-3, 2-3, 2-2)
(1-1, 1-4, 2-2, 3-1)
1. Malta; 2. South Africa; 3. Switzerland; 4. Austria; 5. Poland; 6. Ireland; 7. Denmark; 8. Wales; 9. Lithuania; 10. Scotland.