LONDON -- Winning the country's first Olympic water polo title was grueling enough. Celebrating the title might be more exhausting.
Croatia defeated Italy 8-6 for the men's gold medal Sunday, with goalkeeper Josip Pavic anchoring a sparkling defense and Miho Boskovic and Maro Jokovic both scoring twice in the second half.
Croatia went 8-0 record during the tournament, adding a medal to the silver it won at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
"We played amazing the whole tournament," Boskovic said. "I think we deserve 100 percent this medal. We played the best water polo and did our finest performance the last match."
Now the real work begins.
"For sure, we will not sleep the next two or three days," he said.
With two of the best defenses and goalkeepers in the tournament facing off, the final began as a defensive struggle. Croatia took control early in the second half after Boskovic struck from long distance and then converted a penalty to take a 5-3 lead.
Jokovic gave Croatia more breathing room in the fourth quarter with two more goals, setting the country's fans, dressed in their traditional red-and-white checkered shirts, into a flag-waving frenzy.
"The whole tournament, our team was playing excellent, all eight games we were dominating all the teams," coach Ratko Rudic said. "For sure we deserved this gold medal."
No one is questioning that, particularly not Italy, which also lost to Croatia in the
"Today, they played better than us. The gold medal is for them, absolutely," Italy's Valentino Gallo said. "The defense of Croatia is very strong. They are strong in every facet of the game. They are the best team for sure. They win every match, every match easy."
The key to Croatia's run was an unyielding defense and an excellent goalkeeper in Pavic, who finished the tournament with a competition-leading save percentage of 70 percent.