By Todd Kortemeier | June 20, 2018, 12:16 p.m. (ET)

Alex Bowen takes a shot at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

 

The U.S. Men’s Senior National Water Polo Team saved its best for last in the final game of Group A pool play at the FINA Water Polo World League Super Final, beating defending world champion Croatia on Wednesday to clinch the top spot in the group.

Earlier in the week, Team USA had beaten Spain and Kazakhstan, putting together a perfect 3-0 record in group play heading into the quarterfinal round. The U.S. will play the last-place team from Group A on Thursday, likely Japan. 

Team USA opened the tournament on Monday with a narrow 8-6 win over Spain. Olympian Ben Hallock was named MVP of the game with two goals, including the game-winner with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

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The U.S. then routed Kazakhstan on Tuesday, 11-4, as MVP Hannes Daube led all scorers with three goals. Olympian McQuin Baron made nine saves. 

Then came the big matchup with the world champs. Team USA led 7-3 at half, but Croatia closed the gap to 11-8 after the third. Croatia then held the U.S. scoreless in the fourth quarter as they closed to 11-10, but got no closer. Olympian Alex Bowen scored five goals and was named match MVP.

The Americans have never won a men’s World League title, but finished as runners-up in 2008 and 2016.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.