TOKYO (AP) — Filip Filipovic and Serbia draped the country's flag over one of the goals at Tatsumi Water Polo Centre.
Then they huddled in the water and yelled “Serbia!” in celebration.
They followed their winning formula all the way to the very end.
Nikola Jaksic scored three goals on three shots and Filipovic made several big plays, helping Serbia beat Greece 13-10 in the men’s water polo final at the Tokyo Games on Sunday.
Serbia became the first country to repeat as Olympic champion since Hungary won three in a row from 2000 to 2008. It earned its fourth medal in its fourth appearance in the Olympics’ oldest team sport.
Dimitrios Skoumpakis, captain Ioannis Fountoulis and Angelos Vlachopoulos scored two goals apiece for Greece, which earned its first medal in men’s water polo. Its previous best finish was fourth in 2004 in Athens.
“For us, it's very, very important,” Greece coach Theodoros Vlachos said. “It's our first medal in Olympic Games, and we are happy.”
Greece also matched the country’s best result in a team sport at the Olympics, joining a silver medal in women’s water polo at the Athens Games.
It was a surprising run for Fountoulis and company, and the Greeks pushed Filipovic and the mighty Serbs deep into the fourth before fading. The teams exchanged hugs in the pool when it was over.
“It's not easy to play against Serbia,” Vlachos said. “Serbia, last two games, semifinal and final, really is the real Serbia. So they deserve it."
Serbia learned some valuable lessons while winning bronze medals in 2008 and 2012, namely how to pace itself during the grueling tournament. It finished fourth in its group at the Rio de Janeiro Games, and then muscled its way to its first Olympic title.
Five years later, it was more of the same.
Serbia players celebrate after hanging a flag on the goal after defeating Greece in the men’s water polo gold medal match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Serbia split its first four games in Tokyo and finished third in Group B, but it raised its game to another level when the quarterfinals rolled around. Filipovic’s tiebreaking goal with 26 seconds left put Serbia back in the final with a dramatic 10-9 victory over Spain on Friday.
It looked as if Serbia might roll right over Greece when it jumped out to a 6-3 lead. But Alexandros Papanastasiou tied it at 7 with 4:05 left in the first half.
It was tied at 10 with 7:23 left when Serbia began to pull away for good.
Andrija Prlainovic converted a penalty shot and Jaksic scored a power-play goal. Mandic made it 13-10 when he scored on a powerful throw with 4:08 remaining, and then head-butted a jubilant Filipovic in celebration.
Mandic and Prlainovic also scored three times for Serbia, and Filipovic had two goals. Branislav Mitrovic made eight saves.
Viktor Nagy led Hungary to the bronze medal in men's water polo in his last game, making eight saves in a 9-5 victory over Spain.
Marton Vamos scored two goals as Hungary rebounded from a disappointing 9-6 loss to Greece in the semifinals.
Hungary is the winningest program in men’s water polo with nine golds, but the bronze in Tokyo was its first medal since its run of three straight Olympic titles from 2000 to 2008. It finished fifth in London and Rio de Janeiro.
By JAY COHEN AP Sports Writer
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap