Rio, finale, Serbia, Croatia, Sandro sokno.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Serbia thrashed water polo rivals Croatia 11-7 in the men's final Saturday, winning the country's first Olympic gold since the two neighbours split apart during the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

"It feels like the whole team has reached eternity. These guys are unbelievable and this is a unique team," said Serbian top-scorer Dusan Mandic, who delivered four goals in the final.

The Balkan final took place amid renewed political tensions between the former Yugoslav sister republics-turned-foes, but this element did not figure in media reactions to the match, apart from readers' comments.

"Rulers of everything - water polo boys walk over Croatia to reach gold in Rio," the Serbian news portal B92 wrote.

"I still can't believe what just happened. We are the world, European and now Olympic champions. There is no better feeling and we are just in shock," Mandic said.

Serbia headed into the Balkan final as the favourites, having won six of the seven major events staged in water polo since the last Olympics four years ago.

In the final, 2012 Olympic champions Croatia managed to equalize after Serbia's early first goal, but the Serbs retook and expanded the lead up to 11-6 in the fourth quarter.

Croatia continued to fight until the end and reduced the debacle to 11-7 with a long-distance shot, less than three minutes before the end of the match.

Serbia had also beat Croatia 11-4 in the final of last year's worlds.

"Right now we have a very young team," Croatian coach Ivica Tucak said.

"I believe that 10 or 11 players on this team will play in Tokyo," he added, referring to the next Olympics in 2020. "I'm very optimistic about our chances in Tokyo."

Italy walked away with the bronze medal Saturday after beating Montenegro 12-10.

Montenegro held on throughout the bout but lagged behind Italy, who finished the first three quarters always in the lead at 2-1, 5-4 and 9-7.

"This is the third time in a row we've played for third place. The results have always been the same: lose the semi-final and lose the third-place game," Montenegro coach Vladimir Gojkovic told journalists afterwards. "I feel really sorry for my players."

Yugoslavia, which included Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro, had been one of the most dominant Olympic water polo teams.

Related stories

Latest news

Greece's creditors want sweeping reforms before next bailout payment

Greece must make sweeping reforms to its labour market, pension system and collective bargaining agreements in order to receive its next vital bailout payment, the country's European creditors said Monday.

President wants to recall "politically appointed ambassadors", can't do it without gov't

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that many politically appointed Croatian ambassadors were not carrying out state policies but that she could not replace them without the government to appoint career diplomats who would fight for Croatia's interests.

Izetbegovic hopes ICJ will confirm Serbia's responsibility for genocide

The Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, on Monday rejected criticism stirred up by the announcement that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be requested to review its judgement made after Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide.

British lawmakers locked in heated debate over Trump's state visit

Allowing US President Donald Trump to visit Britain would be akin to "pimping out the Queen," one British lawmaker said Monday during a heated debate in British parliament over two petitions concerning the US leader's future state visit.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's sharp-tongued ambassador to the UN, dies

Russia's long-time ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died in New York on Monday, following a career that spanned four decades and saw Russia emerge from the Soviet Union and experience many turbulent events in its relations with the West.

French police raid National Front over European Parliament payments

France's far-right National Front Monday said that investigators had searched its offices in relation to allegations that it misused European Parliament funds.

Unhappy Presidents' Day: Trump still manoeuvring after Sweden comment

Donald Trump used his first Presidents' Day in office to continue trying to talk his way out of comments implying a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.

Croatia supports Kosovo's territorial integrity - Grabar-Kitarovic

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday expressed the support to Kosovo's territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations during her talks with the visiting Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj.

Petrov rules out early parliamentary election

Parliament Speaker and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov on Monday dismissed speculation about a reshuffle of the parliamentary majority, saying an early election was likelier, but that right now he did not see "such a scenario."

First local elections in 20 years to be held in Nepal on May 14

Nepal's government announced the dates for forthcoming local elections on Monday, nearly 20 years after polls were last held for municipalities and village councils in the country.

US Defence Secretary: We are not in Iraq to seize Iraqi oil

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday that the United States does not intend to seize Iraqi oil, in reference to comments made by President Donald Trump last month.

Bryan Adams to play Zagreb

Canadian rock star Bryan Adams, who has sold more than 100 million albums in his 40-year-long career, will perform in Zagreb on November 9, according to his website and Facebook account.