Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Water Polo Arena, Olympic Park, Stratford, London
Date Started: July 29, 2012
Date Finished: August 12, 2012
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
Yugoslavia had once been one of the powers in men’s water polo, having won Olympic gold medals in 1968, 1984, and 1988, and winning four silver medals. However, since the break-up of Yugoslavia into its constituent republics, Croatia had won a silver medal in 1996, and Serbia had won silver in 2004 and bronze in 2008, but the former Yugoslav republics had yet to win an Olympic title.
Both Serbia and Croatia came into London among the favorites. Serbia had won the 2011 World League Super-Final, and Croatia had won a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships. At the 2010 World Cup, Serbia had defeated Croatia in the final.
Croatia was drawn in Group A and Serbia in Group B and they both won their respective groups, with Croatia winning all five group matches, while Serbia was tied by another Yugoslav remnant, Montenegro. In the knock-out round, Croatia easily defeated the United States in the quarter-finals and then beat Montenegro, 7-5, to advance to the final. On the other side of the draw, Serbia handled Australia easily, but then lost to Italy, the 2011 World Champions, in the semi-finals, 9-7, setting up a Croatia-Italy final.
In the final, Italy opened the scoring with the first two goals, leading 2-0, but Croatia led at the half, 3-2. Italy tied it up, 3-3, early in the third period, but Croatia then scored four consecutive goals to open a 7-3 lead, and put the match away. Italy came back a little, but Croatia’s first Olympic water polo gold medal was never in much doubt in the second half. The bronze was a re-match of Serbia and Montenegro, with Serbia winning the bronze medal, 12-11.