MELBOURNE, Australia -- Neighboring rivals Serbia and
Croatia will play in the men's water polo semifinals at the world
championships after posting easy quarterfinal wins Wednesday.
Defending champions Serbia beat Greece 8-3 while Croatia
defeated Russia 13-3 at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre,
setting up a repeat of the teams' semifinal at the world titles in
Montreal in 2005.
In the other semifinal, Spain, a 7-5 winner over Italy, will
face Hungary, which downed Germany 13-6.
And there's an added concern for Friday's match -- Melbourne's
large and vocal Serbian and Croatian communities that clashed as
recently as January at the Australian Open tennis tournament.
Croatian and Serbian spectators kicked each other and used flag
poles as weapons during brief scuffles on the first day of the
Police and private security guards at the year's first Grand
Slam event ejected 150 people from the Melbourne Park venue after
the violence, which organizers, players and community leaders
No injuries were reported and no arrests were made.
Two groups of mostly male youths dressed in the colors of the
former rivals in a bitter early-1990s war chanted slogans and
yelled insults at each other near a lawn area where a giant
television screen was set up for spectators.
Serbian and Croatian community groups blamed each other for the
On Wednesday, Serbian water polo player Slobodan Nikic, who
scored one of his team's goals, said he expected that supporters
from both teams would pack the aquatic center for Friday's
"That game is always very hard for us," Nikic said. "They are
now a very good team, so we can expect both sides to have a lot of
fans in the crowd for that match."
Croatian player Samir Barac agreed the match against Serbia
could become heated.
"It will be an intense match, we've played against each other
for a long time," Barac said. "Outside of the pool we are
professional athletes and we respect each other. Inside the pool
it's a different story."