Croatia beat Montenegro 7-5 (3-1, 2-0, 2-2, 0-2) in an Olympic men's water polo semi-final match on Friday to win a place in the gold medal match of the Olympic men's water polo tournament.
The Montenegrins scored the first goal but struggled to penetrate the combination of Croatia's tight defence and their top-ranked goalkeeper in the middle periods of the game.
'Barracudas' then imposed themselves to reach Sunday's final where they will face Italy who defeated Serbia 9-7.
With Friday’s win, Croatia avenged its quarterfinal loss to Montenegro four years ago in Beijing and earned a shot at its first Olympic water polo title, and first medal in the event since silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Since a disastrous ninth-place finish at the 2012 European championship, Croatia has been on a roll, winning the FINA World League Finals last month and plowing through the competition so far in London undefeated.
“Very good performance, all the tournament, from the first game to this game,” coach Ratko Radic said.
The team’s defense, anchored by Pavic in goal, has been stellar, conceding just 36 goals in seven games. Croatia held the U.S. to just two goals in their quarterfinal matchup, and it was stingy again against a talented Montenegro team in the semifinal.
The Italians upstaged the Serbians, who failed to convert their offensive opportunities and found themselves thwarted by the Italian's impenetrable goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti.
Croatia will play Serbia in the final on Sunday to win what will be their first medal in water polo since 1996, while Serbia will face Montenegro in the bronze medal match, a repeat of the third place match in Beijing.
Croatia beat Italy 11-6 in the preliminary round.
Later on Friday, France beat Croatia 25-22 in the second men's handball semi-final to reach the Olympic gold medal game.
The defending champions will play Sweden on Sunday while twice winners Croatia will take on Hungary in the battle for the bronze at 10:00.