Valentino Gallo scored three times to lift Italy to a 9-7 upset over gold medal-favorite Serbia, and Sandro Sukno netted two goals to power Croatia past Montenegro 7-5 and into the men's water polo final at the London Olympics.
The 2011 world champion Italians netted four unanswered goals -- two of them on deflections -- over a five-minute stretch in the first half to take a 5-2 lead and control of the match yesterday.
Serbia, led by 2010 world player of the year Vanja Udovicic and 2011 equivalent Filip Filipiovic, pushed forward and pulled to within 6-5 on an a goal by Udovicic. But Italy goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti made a string of saves -- with a bit of help from the posts -- to hold off the Serbs.
"We are a young team. We are very crazy and we work a lot and we have a fantastic coach and now we play for the final," captain Maurizio Felguo said.
"We work a lot this year and we hope to do a match like this. Congratulations to Serbia but today we are very, very organized and we played very well."
Friday's semifinal was a rematch of the world championship final in Shanghai, China, which Italy won 8-7.
The Italians have 11 players back from that squad, and while the country was tabbed as a contender coming into London, it was considered to be a notch below the favorite Serbs.
"Everybody, we are the same level as in Shanghai," Italy coach Alessandro Campagna said. "I told you that each match we would play better and better, and this is what has happened.
"Our physical condition is going up and I think that we deserved to win this game very much. Very strong physically, but we play very clever tactically."