The final round of the preliminary phase of the men’s Olympic tournament would finally brought clearance on the placings in the tight groups and give an answer to the rising questions of the consequence for the quarterfinal match-ups from several expected ties.
Olympic Aquatics Stadium
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sunday, August 14 – day 8
Montenegro vs. Spain 9-9 (2-2, 3-2, 2-4, 2-1)
Montenegro scorers: Radovic 2, Janovic 2, Da. Brguljan 2, Misic, Paskovic, Klikovac.
Spain scorers: Molina 2, Roca, Sziranyi, Español, Echenique, Munarriz, Tahull, Fernandez.
Spain and Montenegro opened up play as the water polo tournament resumes in the Olympic Aquatics Stadium from this day forward. Both sides were already assured of their place in the knockout phase out of group B and finished their prelims with a 9-9 draw. For Montenegro that came after levelling the score two times in the final period. In fact following a 5-3 lead for the Montenegrins Spain turned the table in the third term where they went up ahead 5-7 and 6-8 as Albert Español hit with 2.33 to play in the quarter. Mladjan Janovic and Darko Brguljan (on man-up) scored consecutive goals to put Montenegro back in the game with over 6 minutes to go. In a sloppy phase that followed neither team could score before Francisco Fernandez broke the silence by hitting on a action shot for the 8-9 lead with 2 minutes on the clock. The response came 30 seconds later when Aleksandar Radovic struck and levelled the score once moe. In the remainder both sides fired from outside but could not hit and probably weren’t very unhappy to settle for the draw as now the focus can be towards the do-or-die quarterfinals.
Spain’s Guillermo Molina takes a penalty shot against Montenegro goalkeeper Zdravko Radic.
Australia vs. Greece 12-7 (5-3, 5-1, 0-2, 2-2)
Australia scorers: Cotterill 3, Howden 3, Younger 2, Swift, Roach, Kayes, Campbell.
Greece scorers: Fountoulis 3, Mourikis, Vlachopoulos, Dervisis, Gounas.
The next match-up saw Australia fighting for their last chance of making it to the quarterfinals. Winning against Greece and hoping for Brazil to beat Hungary by 2 goals or more was the scenario. Step 1 was taken in convincing fashion in the second game of the day. Thanks to a superior and spectacular first half the Aussie Sharks blew away the Greek whose defence was shot to pieces in a 10-goal onslaught in the first half alone. The 10-4 half-time score said it all. And proved to be the difference maker as both defences started to tighten up in the second half of the match. Here the Greek, already sure of advancing, got back by 2 unanswered goals in the third term but never looked to be able making it a game again. Australia controlled the remainder and, in any case, can look back to a successfull final round of the prelims.
USA vs. Italy 10-7 (2-4, 3-2, 3-1, 2-0)
USA scorers: Obert 2, Bonanni 2, Azevedo 2, Samuels 2, Cupido, Dunstan.
Italy scorers: Di Fulvio 2, Figlioli 2, C. Presciutti, Bodegas, Aicardi.
Another example of not bring out your best when already sure of quarterfinals play, and your placing also depending on other results, so out of your own hands, was with Italy falling to USA 10-7. In what might be the last Olympic matches for the veteran US trio of captain Tony Azevedo, defender Jesse Smith and goalkeeper Merill Moses, the Americans raw away with a deserved 10-7 victory over a sloppy Italian side. After things did go the way of the Sandro Campagna coached squad in the first period USA slowly but surely turned things around. The Italians remained on the good side of the score throughout a close second and third period but saw USA in front after 3 when Alex Obert hit on man-up for the 8-7 score. Italy’s play in final term was simply too sloppy to get back their lead and goals by Tony Azevedo and a nice lob from Bret Bonanni sealed the deal for USA who close out their Olympics posting a 2nd win in group B. Moses and Azevedo got subbed out in the game’s final seconds on a standing ovation from the crowd in the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in what was the slightest of appropriate farewells to some of USA’s water polo most remarkable and successful athletes.
France vs. Croatia 9-8 (3-2, 3-3, 2-1, 1-2)
France scorers: Marouzki 3, Saudadier 2, Simon, Blary, Izdinsky, Peisson.
Croatia scorers: Sukno 3, Krapic 2, Bukic, Buric, Setka.
The next example followed right away. With the Croatians hinting on a 4th place finish for Serbia in group A the Ivica Tuck coached current vice world champions looked to want to avoid a possible quarterfinal cracker in the prelims final match in group B. In an uninspired performance France was able to clinch its first win by holding off the Croatians 9-8. The French actually were ready and willing to play in their final match of these Rio Olympics and certainly looked that way throughout the match. Hard work pays off, and it did for the French who finally took a 9-7 lead when Matthei Peisson hit on an extra man situation with 3.35 to go. Sandro Sukno brought the Croatians back on his trademark shot to quickly finish a 6-on-5 but was substituted right after and could watch his team trying to level in the final minute. Here Croatia got two chances in the final seconds but missed both, as Xavi Garcia’s final attempt was saved by France goalkeeper Remi Garsau who put up a more than solid performance as they held on for the close win bowing out from the Olympics on a high with their first victory.
Serbia vs. Japan 12-8 (2-5, 3-0, 4-2, 3-1)
Serbia scorers: Filipovic 6, D. Pijetlovic 2, S. Mitrovic, Mandic, Cuk, Nikic.
Japan scorers: Takei 5, Okawa 2, Kadono.
Serbia still needed a win over Japan to secure its spot in the quarterfinals. The reigning European and world champions suffered from a slow start, not the first time this tournament, and the Japanese, known for coming out ready to play in the early minutes, made good use. The unaccustomed conceded 5 goals in the opening period alone where the active Japanese and their full-court pressing caused trouble to the Serbs who lacked the answer for a moment. In their effort to break it several shooting chances were missed and the Japan counter attack worked well. It didn’t took Serbia coach Dejan Savic long though to figure out what to do as the game started to turnaround from the second period onwards. Here the Serbian defence shut down the Japan attack, step 1 in the process, and could more and more focus on the individual effort on the other end, needed to break the press and score.
Leading figure was, not surprisingly, Filip Filipovic. Unstoppable for the smaller Japanese defenders, he had a blast scoring 6 goals on 7 shots in the contest. His shooting sparked the squad in their turnaround and displayed what was needed on offence to deal with Japan. In the second half Serbia started to dominate, still suffered a few goals, on 2 penalty shots, and a 6-on-5 situation, but had gained rhythm that could not be stopped by Japan. They remained pointless in group A concluding their 2016 Olympics while Serbia finished with 6 points and advances. In what position in the group, and facing whom in the quarterfinals, depends on the result in the game between Brazil and Hungary.
Andrija Prlainovic. Photo: mtb-sport.net/photos.
Brazil vs. Hungary 6-10 (0-3, 1-2, 3-3, 2-2)
Brazil scorers: Perrone 2, B. Gomes 2, Crivella, Guimarães.
Hungary scorers: Vamos 2, Hosnyanszky 2, Harai 2, Manhercz, Zalanki, Kis.
One of the more anticipated matches of the day was the final one where Brazil took on Hungary for the top spot in the group. Here Australia was also interested as a potential loss by the Hungarians could get the Sharks through. Since that would then involve the Magyars finishing 5th in the group, the stakes were high and different (elimination or group win) especially. Ealy on however it became clear that Hungary was ready to play and not to let this opportunity pass by. Styfling defence on the Brazilians and fine shooting on the other end had the Tibor Benedek coached side quickly establishing a 0-3 lead. It was extended to 0-5 in the second period, through goals of Balazs Harai and Gergö Zalanki before Gustavo Guimarães, on a penalty shot, finally got the Brazilians on the board. It didn’t changed much though as Hungary goalie Viktor Nagy was at it and the pair of centre forwards took centre stage in the late third and early fourth period scoring several nice centre action, and backhand goals. Despite Felipe Perrone scoring twice in a row in the third period, and Bernardo Gomes doing so in the final term, Hungary’s win was never in doubt. They take the top spot in group A and can prepare for a cracking quarterfinal vs. Montenegro in two days time.
Brazil’s Felipe Perrone ready to shoot past Balazs Erdelyi and goalkeeper Viktor Nagy.
Quarter Final Round – Monday, August 15 – day 9
14.10: Brazil vs. USA – women
15.30: Australia vs. Hungary – women
18.20: Russia vs. Spain – women
19.40: Italy vs. China – women
Quarter Final Round – Tuesday, 16 August 2016 – Day 10
11.00: Hungary vs. Montenegro – men
12.20: Greece vs. Italy – men
15.10: Brazil vs. Croatia – men
16.30: Serbia vs. Spain – men
N.b.: Time mentioned is local time (UTC/GMT – 3 hours)