Defending Olympic and World champions, the Serbian men’s water polo team will be the team to beat at the 17th FINA World Championships once again.
Serbia won the European Championships in 2012 (Eindhoven), 2014 (Budapest) and 2016 (at home, in Belgrade). Besides the World Championships title in 2015 (Kazan) the team collected four gold medals from World League Super Finals (2013 Chelyabinsk, 2014 Dubai, 2015 Bergamo and 2016 Huizhou, China) and one gold from the World Cup final in 2014.
Since 2012, Serbia lost only one event with the lead of current head coach, Dejan Savic: Hungary won the World Championships in Barcelona back in 2013 (Serbia was beaten by Montenegro during the quarterfinals).
Even though the average age of the team is not high, following the triumphant Rio Games two giants, Zivko Gocic and Slobodan Nikic announced their retirements from the national team.
The head coach Savic and the rest prepare for 17th FINA World Championships with full throttle. Players adore the head coach, Dejan Savic who usually gives opportunity to the young stars from the very extensive junior base. Budapest may easily witness a refreshed, rejuvenated post-Olympic Serbian team in July – it is just enough to take a quick look at the latest roster having played against Slovakia on January 10 at a World League game: Dimitrije Risticevic, Lazar Dobozanov (goalkeepers), Filip Radojevic, Dusan Mandic, Viktor Rasovic, Nikola Jaksic, Radomir Drasovic, Nemanja Vico, Dorde Lazic, Marko Jankovic, Strahinja Rasovic, Ognjen Stojanovic, Gavril Subotic.
Among these players only Nikola Jaksic and Dusan Mandic were in Rio, the rest are from the new generation.
The head coach of Serbia respects the Hungarian water polo and his players do the same – many of them playing for Hungarian clubs during the season (such as Stefan Mitrovic, Branislav Mitrovic, Milos Cuk, Milan Aleksic or Andrija Prlainovic).
So far only the team of Yugoslavia was able to win two World Championships in a row and the Olympic gold in between, in 1986 (Madrid), 1988 (Seoul) and 1991 (Perth).
Now Serbia has a chance to repeat history in Budapest – a place filled with recent great memories as they triumphed on the Margaret Island at the European Championships in 2014.