Italy edge Spain, Greece survive scare, Brazil upset Australia

RIO Day 1
Emmanouil Mylonakis scored the unexpected winner for Greece. Photo: David Damnjanovic.

Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Saturday, August 6 – day 1

Serbia vs. Hungary 13-13 (3-5, 3-4, 3-2, 4-2)
Serbia scorers: Filipovic 3, Cuk 2, Nikic 2, Mandic, Randjelovic, Jaksic, S. Mitrovic.

Hungary scorers: Hosnyanszky 3, De. Varga, Vamos 2, Zalanki, Manhercz, Szivos, Da.Varga, Kis.

A great opening of the Games in Rio with the Group A first round classic Serbia against Hungary. The most decorated water polo nation at the Olympics Hungarians managed to put up a great effort and push Serbia to well in to last minute to earn a draw: 13-13.

The Serbia water polo team have been dominating the game for past two years, but Hungary showed great attacking skills scoring 9 goals already in first two quarters. Tibor Benedek’s team were threatening from all position and were able to respond immediately to goals from opposition. Nine different players led by captain Denes Varga scored to build a 3-goal advantage at halftime. What was usually the strength of Serbian team in extra player opportunities, did not worked until the second part of the game. On the other side, Hungarian sharp shooting and impressive centre-forward play were keeping them ahead.

Gojko Pijetlovic was on the goal for Serbia in the second part, and that proved to be a great strength for the Dejan Savic coached side who was trying to get back in the game. Norbert Hosnyanszky scored beautifully from a long distance shot at the opening of the third quarter to give Hungary a 4-goal lead.

The Serbians had to step up, and Filip Filipovic (game top scorer with 3) was the man who pulled them back managing to beat Viktor Nagy on multiple occasions. Most importantly in the last attack of the game when he found the top left corner to earn a draw for his team. Milos Cuk added a couple of great assists improving Serbian play on man-up as they came away with a tough draw but avoided a loss. Up next for the Serbs will be Greece on Monday morning while Hungary meet Australia later that day.

By: Srdjan Tomic

USA vs. Croatia 5-7 (2-2, 1-1, 1-2, 1-2)
USA scorers: Azevedo 2, Roelse, Bowen, Bonanni.

Croatia scorers: Jokovic 2, Setka 2, Petkovic, Bukic, Sukno.

In the day’s second game it was Croatia who held off USA water polo team 5-7. After a slow start, the Croatian water polo players struck late in the third and in the final period where a 4-3 deficit was turned around in leading 4-7 thanks to Andelo Setka and Maro Jokovic. The players, top scorers for the winners netted consecutive shots in the 4th quarter as the Ivica Tucak coached side took a 4-7 lead which proved decisive. As Croatia controlled the second half and the final period especially, USA looked unable to force a comeback in the final minutes. Croatia’s goalie Marko Bijac was right there to deny the outside shots that were fired by Dejan Udovicic’ men before Alex Roelse decided the final score on a nice action shot, cross-cage, just after the 2-minute mark. As expected the Americans put up a decent fight, especially in the first half, but saw a patient Croatia side deciding things in crunch time.

Spain vs. Italy 8-9 (3-2, 2-1, 1-2, 2-4)
Spain scorers: Molina 4, Español 3, Munarriz.

Italy scorers: Figlioli 3, C. Presciutti 3, Di Fulvio 2, Fondelli.

The highlight of the day was the expected close call between Spain and Italy. In a tense, physical but entertaining match the Italians finally pulled it off 8-9 after Spanish captain Guillermo Molina missed a late penalty shot which was denied by Marco del Lungo who took over from Stefano Tempesti in the second half and was there to spark the Italian defence in the decisive final period. Here the Italians came back from an 8-6 deficit by the Spaniards who looked sharp and performed up to their potential. For over three quarters the Gabriel Hernandez coached side looked to be going for an important win in this group B match-up but the final three minutes killed that aspiration. Andrea Fondelli on man-up, top scorer Pietro Figlioli from outside also in a 6-on-5, and finally Christian Presciutti from the left corner on a nice shot turned around the score to 8-9 with 2 minutes to go. The Presciutti winner came straight after Molina missed his penalty against his longtime Brescia team-mate Del Lungo. Just a long-distance shot by Albert Munarriz was what was fired at the Italian goalie in the final phase of the game where Italy held on a came away with a hard-fought and important win leaving the Spaniards behind disappointed after having played almost spectacular for 3 quarters with Molina and Albert Español’s shooting as highlights of that.

Greece vs. Japan 8-7 (2-0, 2-3, 0-4, 4-0)
Greece: Vlachopoulos 3, Mylonakis, Pontikeas, Afroudakis, Kolomvos, Fountoulis.

Japan scorers: Arai 2, Takei 2, Okawa 2, Yasuda.

For both Greece and Japan their opening match of the Rio Olympics was likely not what was expected. In a striking course, the Greek looked well underway to an expected win before completely being shut down in a 0-4! third quarter with Japan all of a sudden in the lead and close to a huge upset. But as silent Greece’s attack remained in the third quarter, as steamrolling they were in the final period where the same digits were noted but now in favour of the Theodorous Vlachos coached squad who netted 4 straight shots and held Japan scoreless to come away with an 8-7 score. The winner, scored by Emmanouil Mylonakis only came with just half a minute remaining on a counter attack so that Greece hopefully can use this experience to be ready, and steady, when Serbia is the next opponent, on Monday. For Japan, their dynamic, swimming style of play is different from most other teams in this field of participants and already had its influence in the very first match. Virtually all goals by the Japanese came from counter attack which was swum really and definitely are the major thing to deal with for the opposition. The only player of Greece to deal with that by returning the favour in the first half, Angelos Vlachopoulos, finished top scorer of his team with 3 goals.

France vs. Montenegro 4-7 (0-2, 0-3, 1-0, 3-2)
France scorers: Crousillat, Marzouki, Khasz, Peisson.

Montenegro scorers: Radovic 3, Da. Brguljan, Paskovic, Misic.

A relatively easy win for Montenegro water polo team to open their campaign. The French were held scoreless in a one-sided first half that ended with the score at 0-5. It allowed the Montenegrins to cruise through the second half in which the French got on the boards and gave the final result a better look. Montenegro, however, were in control en route to a comfortable start of their tournament in the close group B that will feature more top match-ups already in the group stage. The battle for just reaching the quarterfinals will already be a tough one for any team in this group.

Brazil vs. Australia 8-7 (3-2, 2-1, 2-2, 1-2)
Brazil scorers: Delgado 3, Gomes, Perrone, Franco, Rocha, Guimarães.

Australia scorers: Campbell 2, Cotterill 2, Howden, Kayes, Younger.

In a ‘swinging’ setting the home team made headlines on day 1 by knocking off Australia 8-7. In fact, the Brazilians grabbed the lead in the opening quarter (2-0) not to give it away. The match, however, got very close in the second half where the Aussie Sharks continued to look for the equaliser but every time they managed to cut the deficit to just one goal, Brazil was there to answer. Same story in the final period where Richie Campbell shot the Sharks to trailing 7-6 before top scorer and a man of the match for Brazil, Adria Delgado, was there to answer over a minute later putting the home team back to leading by two: 8-6. Shots were fired back and forth in the following, crucial phase of the match but when finally the Aussies came through, it was too late. Johno Cotterill’s hit came with just 0.42 on the clock. Enough for Brazil to hold on for the nice opening day win giving the crowd at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre something to cheer for.
Brazil can go for an even better start when they face Japan on Monday in round 2 while Australia gets the daunting task of meeting Hungary in the race for points in group A.


Monday, August 8 – day 2

09.00: Serbia vs. Greece – men
10.20: Italy vs. France – men
11.40: USA vs. Spain – men
13.00: Hungary vs. Australia – men
19.30: Japan vs. Brazil – men
20.50: Croatia vs. Montenegro – men

N.b.: Time mentioned is local time (UTC/GMT – 3 hours)

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