Water polo (W) day 2 - Hungary upset world number 2 China

London 2012 Water Polo

altHungary came out on top of today's Group A match defeating the #2 world ranked team China in the second day of women's competition at the Water Polo Arena on Wednesday, August 1st. The world #9 ranked Hungarians were unphased by a 3-1 deficit at the end of the first quarter and at being behind 7-5 at half time. Three goals by Gabriella Szucs in the third period brought Hungary to within one goal at 10-9. Dora Czigany (HUN) levelled the game in an extra-man attack early in the fourth quarter.

Five minutes later, former German player Barbara Bujka gave the huge Hungarian supporter base what they wanted with a sweeping flick over her head from the centre-forward position for the first Hungarian lead of the game with just 1:56 minutes remaining on the clock. China had chances to draw but even after a timeout at 12 seconds left in the game, the Chinese players could not penetrate the strong Hungarian defence.

Ma Huanhuan, Sun Yating, Sun Yujun and Sun Huizi each scored two goals for China. Ma Huanhuan (CHN) explained how the match was lost: "We missed so many opportunities today. In the last two minutes, when we went behind, we started to worry and that's where we lost the game. We are not happy, but we will never give up. We have a few more matches and we will give it our best." Gao Ao explained her mood after the game: "I am upset we lost, but we played a good match. We let Gabriella Szucs score a few goals, which we should not have done, but in the end it was only one goal that we lost by."

From the winning side, Hungarian head coach provided their team's analysis: "It was a pity that we let China rush away at the beginning since it meant we had to use on of our special defensive formats, something we had wanted to do only in the knockout phase. We learn it from the men's team and it's something new in the women's field, and the Chinese didn't like it at all. We are talking about women who sometimes lack confidence. If today's achievement does not boost all of theirs to the maximum, then I don't know what else would." The Hungarian coach continued: "We heard from the previous Games that our Olympic champion men's team usually play in an atmosphere that feels like their home pool, thanks to hundreds of Hungarian supporters. Now we also enjoy the same backing, and I can tell you that the support coming from the stands today was worth at least one goal. So actually we played to a tie and our fans won us the match."

Hungarian player Edina Gangl (HUN) explained an exercise that she sometimes performs before an important contest. "If there is a huge game and there is an exciting situation, and if the ball deserves a kiss, then I give it one, for sure!  Today it fully deserved one, the ball was with us." IIdiko Toth offered her opinion on how the game was won. "Changing our goalkeeper in the third quarter meant really a lot for us. This game was like playing in a final. Towards the end of the game we had more energy than China."

China converted only five of 13 extra man attempts compared to Hungary's three from seven conversions. It was China's second loss of the tournament after going down to Spain 6-11. Hungary won their first game of the Olympic competition following their loss on Monday to the USA, 13-14.


Lisunova and Karnaukh guide Russia to victory over Italy

Three goals from Ekaterina Lisunova and two penalty saves by goalkeeper Anna Karnaukh ignited a Russian 7-4 victory over Italy, the European Champions in today's Group A match. In a low scoring first half, Russia held a one goal advantage at each break. Russia would score 3 goals to Italy's one during the third period giving Russia a comfortable 6-2 margin.

Italy found themselves down 3-7 with 5:28 remaining, a victim of Russia's superior defence. Tania Di Mario (ITA), an Olympic gold medallist from the 2004 Athens campaign, scored twice in the final quarter. She had a chance for a third goal in the final minute but saw her penalty shot blocked by Russian goalkeeper Karnaukh (RUS). Just two minutes earlier, Karnaukh was magnificent in stopping a shot delivered by Robert Bianconi (ITA).

Neither team excelled in the critically important extra-man advantage. Russia converted only one of five opportunities while Italy could only score once in seven situations. Both teams have one victory each over the first two games and will be hoping for victories in Friday's matches to secure better positions in Group A. Russia will face Australia in their final group match while Italy will match up against the home team from GBR.

Alexander Kabanov, the Russian head coach offered his assessment of their victory today: "The first match is always difficult as there is an anxiety, but now we are getting into the tournament, slowly but surely. Results are not important at the moment. Our style of play is what we are taking care about." Russian player Olga Beliaeva (RUS) said: "Today the team spirit was very good. We helped each other and we were strong and the little group of Russian fans helped us very well. Against Australia we will play better. We were a bit nervous in our first match against Great Britain." Ekaterina Lisunova reported: "Today's result feels great. The game against Great Britain didn't go quite so well, but we are getting into the tournament now and it's going really well. It's not important who we face, all of the teams are strong but we are here to win."

Italy's head coach Fabio Conti explained: "Today we had a good game, good defence and good attack. The only problem was that we missed too many shots including two penalties. It's not usual for Italy, but I am not afraid of anything. The most important thing is to build game, to have a good construction of plays. We had that, missed several shots but that happens sometimes. Next time we will have them."

Italian player Elena Gigli offered: "We didn't do our best. We can do better than this. We understand now how difficult the tournament actually is." Her Italian teammate shared: "We didn't play well, we didn't win. We go out to win every game but our attack didn't work for us. It is how the referees are directing the game. Today there were some calls that were meant to favour us but then they changed their mind. We have to go ahead and win the next game, then we will see who we play in the next round."


USA and Spain end epic battle in a tie

The USA team, silver medallists from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, rallied back from a halftime deficit only to relinquish a three goal lead late, resulting in a 9-9 draw with Spain. Kami Craig (USA) scored four goals, three in the third period, to lead the USA offense. Betsey Armstrong (USA) went the distance in net, stopping 10 shots including a penalty shot block. The tie moves USA to 1-0-1 in Group A play. The United States will close out preliminary play with China on Friday.

Spain got off to the quick start scoring the first goal of the match a little over 30 seconds in. The USA responded with Craig's first goal, a backhand, just two minutes later to even things at 1-1. Spain retaliated with consecutive goals to close out the first period and led 3-1 going into the second. In the second frame Melissa Seidemann (USA) started off the scoring with a goal from in close, reducing the deficit to one at 3-2. Both offenses were quiet for the next few minutes with Spain breaking through at the 3:34 mark on a skip shot goal from Jennifer Pareja, one of her four on the night. On the next possession the United States answered with a goal from Maggie Steffens (USA) on a power play, bringing the score to 4-3 in favour of Spain. The Iberians reopened a two goal lead just a minute later as they foiled a USA power play and turned it into a counter attack score for a 5-3 lead. Another USA power play just before the half was snuffed out by Spain and it was a 5-3 match at intermission.

The third quarter belonged to the USA with Craig going on a rampage. With 5:50 to go in the period she got loose inside for a redirect to beat the keeper for a 5-4 game. Moments later, Annika Dries (USA) took advantage on the counter attack and beat the goalie, tying the match at 5-5. Spain responded with an outside shot a minute later to go back in front 6-5, but that would be all for their offense in this period. The following possession for Spain resulted in a drawn penalty but Armstrong was there to deny the attempt. On the next possession for the United States the ball went back to Craig who delivered a skip from in close for a tie game at 6-6. She then gave the USA their first lead of the day at 7-6 with a power play score just two minutes later.

That was the score to open the fourth quarter and the United States kept building on a lob try from Brenda Villa (USA) and a power play goal from Courtney Mathewson (USA) to take a 9-6 lead. With 2:49 remaining Spain began to chip away. They connected on a penalty shot and then followed up with two power play goals, the last coming with :46 to play in the game, evening the score at 9-9. A final chance from the USA in the waning seconds would be no avail and the match ended in a draw.

Spanish player Maica Garcia shared: "We're very happy with a draw against a great team like the USA. It was difficult playing against defenders who are so big, but we did well. I was fortunate to be the one to score goals for our team in the final minutes of the game. I think our coach is happy and we've proved that Spain is ready to fight for the medals. It's always an advantage to be a young team. We've come through the ranks and have a hunger to win. It is our first Olympics and we really want to do well." Spanish teammate Anni Espar Llaquet was proud of her team's play today: "It was the great team spirit that helped us change the momentum of the game today. Our defence needed to be better and we know that everything will work out if we improve in this area."

USA Adam Krikorian confirmed his respect for the Spanish team. "They are maybe the hardest team in the world. We had a hard time in the first half. In the second, we played as we want to play every single game. For our next game we just need to build on that second half we had with Spain."

USA player Kami Craig spoke about today's match: "We just take it one quarter, and one play at a time. We knew this game was going to be a battle and that is what we did, we battled. It was a physical match tonight and the girls did a great job to find me and putting the ball where it needed to be. There are a lot of great games and now every one is becoming difficult." USA teammate Betsey Armstrong agreed: "Every game is a close game, it's not over until the very end. Spain is a great team, but a little unfamiliar and there was an element of surprise. They've played together a long time. We focus on one game at a time. Our next opponent China is a great team, we will focus on them first."

The USA went 4/11 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty while Spain was 4/9 on power plays and 1/2 on penalties. The USA and Spain met in March at the Kirishi Cup with Spain taking a 12-10 victory. USA and Spain are now in a tie for first place in Group A. The final group rankings will determine the quarterfinal match ups with all eight teams advancing on from preliminary play.  


Australia overwhelms Great Britain, 16-3 in Group B match

Australia gained their second successive Group B victory with a 16-3 rout of Great Britain today. The victory was built on the powerful shooting of Rowie Webster who had five goals and Ash Southern who connected with the goal three times. Australia led 3-1, 6-2 and 11-3 at the breaks.

Australia started strongly with three unanswered goals but the first angered the largely British crowd. Sophie Smith (AUS) drove towards the goal and lobbed the ball. The ball bobbled on the line and must have just barely crossed it according to the goal judge. The home town crowd held a different opinion. Southern (AUS) netted her second and third goals as her assault continued. Chloe Wilcox (GBR) scored for Great Britain inside the final minute of the first quarter, 3-1.

The second quarter was near identical with three additional Australian goals, two for Webster (AUS), then a Wilcox (AUS) net to make it 6-2 at half time. Webster and Southern added to their scores in a 5-1 third period that showcased the skill of the Australian team. A closing 5-0 quarter were nails in the coffin.  

Great Britain was riding a wave of praise after falling to Russia, 6-7 on the first day of Olympic competition. The Brits could not match the counter-attacking, fast passing Australians who possessed a wealth of experience on the Olympic Games stage. During their one-woman advantages, Australia converted four goals from seven attempts and defended 10 of 11.

Great Britain's coach Szilveszter Fekete (HUN) spoke about his team's prior game with Russia: "I think the joy was too big after our previous match and that took away our edge. The concentration levels were definitely lower today. We missed a couple of extra-man chances in the beginning and had we scored from them it might have been a different match."

Rosie Morris (GBR) spoke about her worry that she and her teammates disappointed the home crowd: "The support gives us great confidence, but we felt bad for the crowd today. We never want to upset them and perform like this again. It was embarrassing. I don't think we were good enough. They didn't do anything special, we just didn't perform. Our attacks were not up to scratch." Her teammate Alex Rutlidge (GBR): "We knew that they were strong and one of the favourites. We'll take what we can from that game and use it for the next one. Obviously the medal rounds are in our minds, but we need to gain experience from these games and grow from that." 

Greg McFadden, the Australian skipper spoke about his team: "The girls were very professional. Everything that Great Britain were trying to do, we nullified. We were better tonight than in the game against Italy. We need more consistency." Australia player Ash Southern offered her view of the game: "It was a really good performance and we stuck to our game plan. We studied videos of the British team and we worked our defence. There were a couple of fouls where the referee didn't see what happened under water, but it's all part of the game. It's pretty noise so you can't hear much. We just said the crowd's here for us and we tried to work it to our advantage."