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KAZAN, Russia, (Reuters) - Serbia won their second world water polo championship as an independent nation in an 11-4 rout of traditional rivals Croatia in the final on Saturday.
The Serbians, reigning European champions, stormed back from an early 2-0 deficit and turned the match on its head with six unanswered goals against the Olympic title holders.
Full back Andrija Prlainovic led the winners with three goals and their ironclad defense, superbly marshaled by second-choice goalkeeper Branislav Mitrovic, stifled out the Croatians at the other end.
Trailing 5-2 at halftime, Croatia gave themselves a glimmer of hope by keeping the deficit down to three goals at the end of the third quarter (7-4) but ran out of the steam in the final eight minutes.
“It has been the greatest honor in my life to captain this team,” Serbia captain Zivko Gocic told the country’s national RTS television. “They are great characters with a big heart.”
Prlainovic was named the final’s most valuable player.
“We’ve made history tonight because no one has won the world title so emphatically," he said. "It’s been a privilege.” It was the first time the countries had met in a world final in any team sport as independent nations since the former Yugoslavia’s break-up.
Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Ed Osmond