The early morning matches at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre have proven not to be a fruitful source for highly entertaining encounters thus far. On Day 3 of thewater polo men’s competition, Australia and Japan were added to the list of teams to start off the day but not doing so by displaying their very top performance. Serbia had their fair share of troublesome matches in the first two days opening the respective days of men’s competition.
Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Wednesday, August 10 – day 4
Australia vs. Japan 8-6 (1-2, 2-1, 3-2, 2-1)
Australia scorers: Kayes 4, Younger 3, Swift.
Japan scorers: Takei 2, Okawa 2, Shiga, Yanase.
The Aussie Sharks did record a useful and important first win in the early morning but had to make quite the effort to be woken up and ready to play. The Japanese got past Sharks goalie James Stanton-French too easily in the early minutes, which led to a 1-2 score and substitution in goal made by coach Elvis Fatovic. Koji Takei put his side up 1-3 in the second period before Australia came into play. Apart from a man of the match Joe Kayes, who topped the scores list with 4 goals, it was Japan who had shown being ready to play at that hour a day. Two extra-mans later the score was tied 3-3 thanks to goals by Joel Swift and Aaron Younger which proved to be the start of the run to take the decisive lead in the third period. Younger (2) and Kayes scored consecutive goals to get the Sharks in the lead 6-3 in still not a very convincing performance. That was confirmed when Japan replied by netting two straight shots making the game get into a close final period with the score at 6-5 at the end of the third. Australia had to still work for their win and it was Joe Kayes who not only put them on the right but virtually guided the Elvis Fatovic coached side to the victory. His 2 straight goals, including a spectacular over-the-head lob shot, in the 4th quarter, decided the outcome of the encounter. Mitsuaki Shiga had the final goal of the game with over a minute remaining for Japan but that was all they could get as the Aussie Sharks stepped out of the water with the first win under their belt and a promising position in group A looking to the knockout stage of the Water Polo Olympic tournament.
Greece vs. Hungary 8-8 (1-2, 1-1, 4-2, 2-3)
Greece scorers: Vlachopoulos 3, Genidounias 2, Gounas 2, Mourikis.
Hungary scorers: Harai 3, Hosnyanszky, Zalanki, Da. Varga, Vamos, Erdelyi.
Another thriller in Group A of the Olympic Games water polo tournament, this time in the second match of Day 3 where Greece and Hungary shared a point after a hard-fought battle that ended tied in 8-8. Angelos Vlachopulos struck for the Greek 5 seconds before the end of the game with a long-range effort scoring his third of the game. The Hungarians now have 3 points out of 3 games, while Greece is topping the group with 4 points. In the afternoon programme Serbia and Brazil will clash to put even more drama to, so far, the highly unexpected development of the situation in Group A. Japan is the only team falling behind with no points. Although the Japanese put strong effort so far, it looks like they will bow out after the Round Robin phase. On the other side, the Australians much improved their chances earning a draw with Hungary on day two and building up on that by beating Japan.
The match between Greece and Hungary was of crucial importance to both teams, and Vlachopulos opened the match with the goal to give his team a lead early in the first period. The Hungarians turned things around after a silent 5 minutes of the game and quickly scored twice trough Gergö Zalanki and Balasz Harai to be in front 2-1. Strong defending continued in to the second quarter with two goals on the man-up, one for each side.
After half-time, players were much more into the game, and both sides showed impressive attacking. Greece made a 3-0 streak, build confidence and had the control of the game while the Hungarians were looking for a way to get back, and eventually found a way to get past goalkeeper Konstantinos Flegkas. Norbert Hosnyansky gave them a boost with a powerful, and a bit lucky shot through three blocking defenders and the goalkeeper. Then Konstantinos Mourikis showed great skills scoring beautifully from the 2-meter line. Hungary was once again two goals down, but they kept their heads cool and used perfect extra-man actions to cut the deficit to one goal before the last quarter.
In the final period the Magyars staged a comeback and even went ahead after Daniel Varga scored from distance, and centre forward Harai got them in the lead putting the pressure back on Greeks. Now trailing Theodoros Vlachos’ team now found once again that deadly attack to come back, and so they did trough Konstantinos Genidounias, but only to be replied by Marton Vamos in another good extra man action by the Hungarians. It looked like the Szolnok left hander’s goal 2.18 before the end might be the last one as both teams had given their best, but in the dying seconds, Vlachopulos found that extra energy to shot through two blocking players, hitting the top corner. If we go just two months back, we can find the same play in the Champions league semi-final when Vlachopulos scored against Szolnok and goalkeeper Viktor Nagy in last second, and therewith took his team to the final.
By: Srdjan Tomic
France vs. USA 3-6 (1-1, 0-4, 0-0, 2-1)
France scorers: Crousillat, Peisson, Camarasa.
USA scorers: Samuels 3, Smith, Cupido, Mann.
Perhaps it was the grey, rainy, almost grumpy-looking weather in Rio but game 3 on Wednesday also did not exactly brought out the best of both sides. Like Australia, the Us men’s water polo team posted their first win in group B in a somewhat tame display. The victory was deserved though as Team USA showed quality by striking on the right moments and especially with a variety of goals, from extra mans, to counter attacks to individual efforts. Typical was the second quarter, dominated by the USA in the scoreline, but in the field more of a transition from the unconvincing start of either side, to the Dejan Udovicic side taking over. Jesse Smith and Josh Samuels scored nice extra man goals while Samuels (counter attack) and Luca Cupido in a 6-on-5, got USA in the lead 1-5 at half-time in what looked as an early decision. Especially after the French could not force a comeback the entire third quarter, which ended up being without any goals, and threw the towel in the final term. Here individual actions were preferred above team play to maybe force a goal but the USA defence was in control and goalie McQuin Baron ready to step up whenever that was needed to. It meant that USA could play out the game very much in control for their first, important win.
France did score the final 2 goals of the game, through a nice action shot by captain Alexandre Camarasa and Ugo Crousillat hitting on man-up, but it was just for the final score. They are in a difficult tournament but valuable experience remaining pointless in that tough group B.
Montenegro vs. Italy 5-6 (1-2, 1-1, 0-1, 3-2)
Montenegro scorers: Da. Brguljan 2, Dr. Brguljan, Ivovic, Misic.
Italy scorers: Di Fulvio 3, Figlioli, Gallo, C. Presciutti.
Montenegro, looking to bounce back from their tough loss to Croatia, faced Italy in another top match-up in group B in the final match of the early session. A typical tough encounter between two physical sides where defence and extra man execution are vitally important. Such was the case on Wednesday where Italy made the difference early on by executing on man-up where Montenegro struggled before Aleksandar Ivovic came through in the latter stages of the opening period. The second quarter displayed the tough match-up between the two sides with their defensive quality as goals were hard to find. After multiple exclusions finally Christian Presciutti struck for Italy putting them up 1-3 before an active Darko Brguljan could force Montenegro’s second goal on an action shot for the 2-3 half-time score.
A low-scoring affair which didn’t change much in the third term where just Francisco di Fulvio (top scorer with 3 goals) hit on extra man while on defence the Italians looked to succeed in controlling Montenegro’s offence that struggled to come through, especially in the quarter. Breaking the deadlock for the Montenegrins though was the goal by Sasa Misic who was on the end of a nice passing game by the Montenegrins where he executed being in front of the Italian goal. Montenegro looked for the momentum but Francesco di Fulvio replied instead. He struck on man-up again to restore the 2-goal lead for the Settebello. But now, unlike we had seen so far, a real battle with goals was unfolding in this tight match. Darko Brguljan brought back Montenegro to 4-5 from the left wing in yet another extra man situation. But as before Italy were quick to respond. Matteo Aicardi was reached in front of the Montenegrin goal and earned the penalty shot as a veteran centre back Predrag Jokic was penalised. Pietro Figlioli blasted home his only goal of the game but a rather important one. Italy led 4-6 and looked to play out the game with the Montenegro shots coming from outside an easy job for experienced goalie Stefano Tempesti. Italy got the chance of going up by 3 goals but Matteo Aicardi’s attempt on man-up was blocked and on the other end Drasko Brguljan was quick and technical to tip in a rebound off a shot by Aleksandar Radovic on extra man with still 1.31 on the clock. Montenegro turned up its defence leading to long-range shots by Figlioli and Di Fulvio, not to create trouble for Montenegro goalkeeper Milos Scepanovic. But in a final attempt, the Montenegrins could not equalise. Darko Brguljan’s shot, heavily defended, was blocked as the Italians held on for the close victory; their third in a row which keeps them perfect so far and in the lead in group B.
Brazil vs. Serbia 6-5 (0-2, 3-1, 2-0, 1-2)
Brazil scorers: Vrlic 2, Guimarães, Perrone, Gomes, Delgado.
Serbia scorers: Nikic, Filipovic, Mandic, Randjelovic, S. Mitrovic.
This should have been the game where Serbia shrugged off their slow start to theWater Polo Olympic tournament with two draws against the fellow group favourites. Instead they walked away with a first defeat since last May in the FINA World League (vs. Montenegro on penalties). An heroic performance by longtime Serbia national team goalie Slobodan Soro for Brazil literally stopped the Serbian attack. For almost all game the Serbs were just trying to get past Soro but failed over and over again. On the other end Brazil created far less chances but executed way better. It led to a turnaround in the second and third period after Serbia had started the game in promising fashion. The quality was not there but the intensity certainly was. The squad looked ready to play. However over the course of the match Soro more and more emerged as nightmare for the Serbian players, who all know him so well, and precisely that fact worked against them this time. And when Gustavo Guimarães (long distance) and standout Josip Vrlic scored for Brazil putting the home team up 5-3 at the end of the third quarter, an upset was in the making.
Serbia got into the situation where they can get the best out of themselves. Finally, after a near 15-minute drought Stefan Mitrovic shot past Soro on man-up not much later followed by Slobodan Nikic doing the same from the post on extra. The score at 5-5, and still 3.40 to play, Serbia had plenty of opportunities to survive. The attack however kept on failing in deciding the outcome. And when scoring the winner cannot bedone, watch out for it on the other end. A late attack by Brazil saw Vrlic finally in position receiving the ball in front of the goal: a penalty shot for Brazil with 46 seconds to go. Gustavo Guimarães pulled the trigger and scored sealing the deal. In the final seconds the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre was a swinging facility as the fans celebrated the upset of the tournament. Now for the favourites the two matches, vs. Australia and Japan, are likely needed to be won in order to keep sight on the quarterfinals. For Brazil the win was their third straight as they’re off to a great start of the tournament leading group A comfortably. Not only thanks to offensive standouts Felipe Perrone and Josip Vrlic. But on Wednesday perhaps even more thanks to Slobodan Soro.
Spain vs. Croatia 9-4 (2-0, 2-1, 1-2, 4-1)
Spain scorers: Echenique 4, Fernandez, Español, Sziranyi, Minguell, Molina.
Croatia scorers: Buslje, Sukno, Garcia, Jokovic.
After the upset of the day, perhaps the tournament, Spain made headlines as they knocked off Croatia 9-4 in a very convincing performance. Once more carried by Gonzalo Echenique (4 goals) the Spaniards controlled the favourite Croats with very active defence and some fine shooting, not only by Echenique but also from usual suspects Guillermo Molina and Albert Español. After Spain held Croatia to scoring just once in the first half the game broke lose in the 2nd half of the third period where the Croats started to visibly try for a comeback in terms of starting to score goals. But whenever the Ivica Tucak coached side finally managed to beat Spain goalie Daniel Lopez who was a sharp as a knife, the Spaniards were quick to recover. Echenique did so from distance in the third session and even Xavi Garcia’s sniper shot midway through the 4th period came in between Spanish goals from Balazs Sziranyi and Marc Minguell. Especially the latter one, scored with 5.11 to play, meant the big win was for Spain. Gonzalo Echenique celebrated his 4th of the game with 2 minutes remaining only to see Francisco Fernandez setting the final score at a clear 9-4 in the final minute.
A big win for Spain who now take 2nd place in group B with 2 victories, just like Croatia who settle for 3rd. Croatia are up for facing group leaders and unbeaten side Italy on Friday, the final men’s round in the outdoor pool of the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre, while Spain takes on France later that day.
Thursday, August 11 – day 5
09.00: Russia vs. Brazil
10.20: Italy vs. Australia
11.40: China vs. USA
13.00: Spain vs. Hungary
Friday, August 12 – day 6
09.00: Hungary vs. Japan – men
10.20: Croatia vs. Italy – men
11.40: USA vs. Montenegro – men
19.30: Greece vs. Brazil – men
20.50: Spain vs. France – men
22.10: Serbia vs. Australia
Saturday, August 13 – day 7
09.00: China vs. Spain – women
10.20: Russia vs. Italy – women
11.40: Australia vs. Brazil – women
13.00: Hungary vs. USA – women
N.b.: Time mentioned is local time (UTC/GMT – 3 hours)