LONDON; Serbia Sunday lived up to its billing as the gold medal favorite in men's water polo by ending three-time defending champion Hungary's 17-match unbeaten streak in the Olympics.
Andrija Prlainovic lead a relentless Serbian attack, scoring five times in the 14-10 win on Sunday. It was Hungary's first Olympic loss since the Sydney Games in 2000.
"It was not easy," Serbia's Filip Filipovic said. "They are triple Olympic medalists, so we maybe expected a little bit more aggression from their side and expected maybe a tougher game in defense and offense. I'm happy because we opened these Olympic Games with a very important win."
Filipovic, the 2011 world player of the year, Dusko Pijetlovic and Slobodan Nikic all chipped in with two goals apiece for the Serbs, who blew open a close game with five unanswered goals to take an 8-3 lead halfway through the third quarter.
Hungary, which is trying to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive gold medal, tried to battle back, but the deficit proved too much against a loaded Serbian side in an extremely physical contest in front of a sold-out water polo arena.
"We lost against a very good team," said Hungary's Tamas Kasas. "We played bad, they played really good and our defense was unfortunately not present, not good at all. But the tournament is very long, so we will have time."
Kasas, who is one of four triple gold medalists on Hungary's team, also brushed aside talk of any disappointment with Serbia snapping Hungary's unbeaten streak.
"I don't care about records," he said. "We just want to win the next game and not think about history and records, because if you think about this you can't concentrate on the next match."
While Hungary has won a record nine Olympic water polo golds, Serbia is still in search of its first as an independent nation.
With the win Sunday, the Serbs sit atop a highly competitive Group B.
The United States and Montenegro, who are both considered solid medal contenders, play later Sunday in Group B, while Great Britain takes on Romania in the group's other match. The U.S. is looking to improve upon its second-place finish in Beijing four years ago and win the Americans' first water polo gold since 1904.
Earlier Sunday in Group A, Croatia used a late surge to pull away for a 8-6 win over Greece in the opening match. With the score level at 5-5 after three quarters, Croatia netted three unanswered goals from Niksa Dobud, Miho Boskovic and Sandro Sukno to take control of the match.
"It was a bit nervous start for us, the first two quarters, and after we started to play more aggressively our quality came to give us the result," Boskovic said.
Spain also opened its Olympic campaign in Group A with an easy 14-6 victory over Kazakhstan behind five goals from Filipe Perrone Rocha, while Alex Giorgetti scored twice to lead 2011 world champion Italy past Australia 8-5.
"It was amazing, we feel like we were flying in the water," Spain's Rocha said. "To score five goals is perfect, but the most important thing is that we were playing amazing and that we beat Kazakhstan."
The 12-team field is broken down into two groups of six for the preliminary stage, and the top four teams from each group advance to the knockout round.