Water polo (M) day 4 - Hungary keeps their Olympic dream alive following their triumph over Great Britain

London 2012 Water Polo

altHungary's quest for a 10th Olympic crown is still on track after qualifying for the quarterfinals with a 17-6 victory over Great Britain in a men's Group A match. Hungary's gain was Great Britain's loss and the British side will depart the competition after Monday's clash with Montenegro. Hungary needed to produce a quality performance after a lacklustre London 2012 prior to today. They have won just two games from four outings but finished ahead of Romania and Great Britain on the group ladder. Hungary used their best team often, looking for quality everywhere in the pool with some success.

Britain used number 13 Matt Holland (GBR) in goal and he has just 32 minutes, equivalent to one match, in the previous three encounters. Hungarian captain and triple Olympic champion Peter Biros (HUN), in particular, had a nightmare time against Holland (GBR), who excelled with 12 saves.

At the other end of the pool another triple Olympic champion, goalkeeper Zoltan Szecsi (HUN) was replaced after saving just three shots. Substitute Viktor Nagy (HUN) blocked nine. Hungary's Tamas Kasas (HUN) and Norbert Madras (HUN) scored three each with Madras taking his tournament tally to 10. Hungary converted six from 10 on man-up plays and Great Britain two from six.

Great Britain's head coach Cristian Iordache (ROU) explained: "We have delivered what we promised, that we will keep fighting and keep up with the top teams. I have enjoyed this tournament so much together with my players and it was a great experience. I'm very proud of my players. Our next goal for the team will be the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games."

GB player Adam Scholefield (GBR) spoke about today's match: "We started well but they're a class outfit. In the last game we made mistakes but today we came out well. The end of today's game was frustrating. We made some basic errors. I think we were too eager to shoot every time. We knew we weren't progressing from the day we got here. Six years ago we'd have lost by 30 goals. They're top teams, it's really hard to keep fighting." His GB teammate Matt Holland complimented his opponent: "Hungary has some of the best players in the world. They're very clever and (GBR) very quick. When you're in the water looking up at six absolute legends, it makes you want to train so much harder." Craig Figes (GBR) was convinced that future GB players were in the stands or watching on television: "If they're (the children) watching, I hope they'll be inspired to succeed in anything they do."

Hungarian skipper Denes Kemeny (HUN) discussed the positives of the match: "Today we have taken one step forward, at least we had some good defending, apart from the second period. Our approach was a bit different, we had our focus in the game and it can't be seen on the scoreboard. You can beat a weaker side 20-11 or 10-1, but the latter is more valuable as it shows you were concentrated. We have several players who are fathers and have kids at home, but here they are just like kids. This is normal, an athlete is always a kid in a sense that he can have childish reactions if something wrong happens. Even three time Olympic champions can lose their self-confidence after some weaker performances. Today we have continued our rebuilding (of self-confidence) process."

Tamas Kasas (HUN) spoke about his and his team's preparations for the quarterfinals: "We still have one more match to concentrate on, which is going to be hard, but after that, hopefully we then have time to practice for the quarterfinals. I think we have what it takes to win the competition, but there are a lot of good teams. This is the most difficult Olympics yet, there are a lot of dangerous teams out there." His teammate Daniel Varga (HUN) said: "We knew we were not going to play a very strong team (in today's match against Great Britain) but we took it seriously. We tried to force the GB team to make mistakes. We have to take our final game (against the USA on Monday) very seriously. We want to win always, under any circumstances. I believe the Olympic water polo really kicks off when it comes to quarterfinals."


Serbia may be on track for Olympic Gold Medal after dismantling USA

Captain Vanja Udovicic and his Serbian team signalled their gold medal intentions with a stunning 11-6 victory over the USA. The USA suffered their first loss at the 2012 Olympic Games, an 11-6. The encounter settled who was best in Group B. Serbia will likely go through undefeated as they play Romania, a team that has already been eliminated.  

Ryan Bailey (USA) scored two goals and Merrill Moses (USA) stopped 12 shots in the defeat. The defeat drops the USA to 3-1 in pool play as they ready for their next game against Hungary on Monday. Despite the loss, the USA has still clinched a spot in the quarterfinal round with seeding still to be determined.

Udovicic, a former world player of the year scored the opening two goals in his haul of three today. He showed his team and the rest of the world what they are capable of at London 2012. Perennial finalists and often the champions, Serbia has class stamped all over them. The USA, 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medallists struggled to keep up.

Serbia scored a counter attack goal just 33 seconds into the contest for a 1-0 lead. They followed with another counter attack score some three minutes later to claim a 2-0 lead. Serbia came calling again with a power play strike with 2:00 to go in the first for a 3-0 lead. The USA broke through on their next possession with an outside shot from Tony Azevedo (USA) for a 3-1 match. Serbia would have the final word in the opening period as Zivko Gocic (SRB) hit from distance for a 4-1 lead with just :16 to play in the quarter.

The United States started off strong in the second period as they went inside to Bailey (USA) for a backhand, making it 4-2 in favour of Serbia with 6:25 left. The two sides would neutralise each other over the next several minutes. That included a sequence of three consecutive blocks from Moses (USA) on the same Serbian offensive trip. With just :16 left in the half Serbia put another tally on the board on a counter attack to take a 5-2 lead. The United States had a response with a shot from outside courtesy of Jeff Powers (USA) to make it 5-3 in favour of Serbia at intermission.

That would be as close as the USA would get on this night as Serbia used the third period to extend their advantage. Serbia hit on three consecutive goals, two from Filip Filipovic (SRB) and another from Udovicic had the margin at 8-4 going into the final quarter. The USA ended the period with a measure of retaliation, as Peter Varellas (USA) drilled a power play score for an 8-4 game after three.

Early in the fourth the United States looked to be on the comeback trail when Tim Hutten (USA) was the recipient of excellent passing for a power play goal. Serbia halted the momentum with a goal on their next possession, rebuilding a four goal lead at 9-5 with 6:52 to play in the period. Over the next few minutes the United States faltered on a power play and missed a penalty shot before Bailey (USA) redirected a dish from Azevedo (USA) into the cage for a score and a 9-6 game with 2:54 left. Serbia would not relent and pumped in two more goals, the last coming with :34 to play in the match to seal the victory. That game would end with Serbia the winners at 11-6.

The USA went two for eight on power plays and zero for one on penalties while Serbia was four for nine on power plays and did not attempt any penalties. The USA has not defeated Serbia in a major championship since the semi-finals of the 2008 Olympic Games. Serbia is now assured the top seed in Group B. 

USA head coach Terry Schroeder (USA) commented on the parts of their game didn't go according to plan: "We didn't start too strong and we gave up a couple of goals. We tried to fight ourselves back into the game, but Serbia is a tough team and I think they are the best here. I hope we will have another shot to play with them. That's the mark of a good team - how it can get back from a defeat like this. We lost today, but we are in the quarterfinals, so we can go on."

USA team captain Tony Azevedo (USA) offered his perspective: "It didn't go well at all, but we're still in a good position. This is a good learning experience for us. We've definitely got to pick up our game, as we're not going to win a crossover (quarterfinal) like we played today. There are four other teams in the group that are great." USA teammate Peter Hudnut (USA) commented: "It wasn't what I expected, we are much better than the result. They're a good team, so we hope we get to play them again. Obviously every team's goal is to win. In this Olympic Games, the top seven or eight teams are all great, the past Olympics have had slower teams."  

Goalkeeper Merrill Moses (USA) provided his analysis: "The result was not what we wanted, we expected to win, but we are not panicking. It means that we need to focus on our mistakes and work on them for our next match against Hungary (on Monday). I think that whoever wins gold at these Olympics will lose one or two games. We can play better, for sure, but it's all about the quarterfinals and that's where the results really matter. We will play a good team, but we will be ready."

Serbian head coach Dejan Udovicic (SRB) shared his analysis of the match: "The result is not important but the style of how we play is. We played very aggressively and to concede just six goals against a team like the USA, that is something." Serbian player Andrija Prlainovic (SRB) was pleased with today's result: "Our hope from the beginning was to take first position in the group before the quarterfinals, but our match on Monday against Romania is still important." His teammate Filip Filipovic (SRB) commented: "Today was not the best example of our game. Now we have to concentrate on Romania. Honestly we didn't expect this. We expected to play even better, we sent too many shots away. It could have been much better for us. We hope we can correct these mistakes. We can't lose the rhythm. We have to go maximum against Romania. Our coaches prepared us very well for the tournament. I do not have any particular team in my mind whom I wish to play against. One thing is sure, there is no place for mistakes."


Montenegro advances while Romania fate hangs by a thread

Montenegro moved into the quarterfinals with a 12-8 victory in Group B over Romania in the fourth day of the London 2012 Olympic Men's Water Polo competition. It was Montenegro's second win, to go with their draw and a loss, but enough to progress to the last eight teams chasing an Olympic medal.

The loss for Romania almost spells doom for their medal hopes. They will require a miracle the magnitude of Great Britain beating Olympic champions Hungary in a game to be played later tonight. Romania may have opened the scoring in today's match, but it was Montenegro that held a firm grasp on the match despite Romania's best performance of the week. Montenegro led 3-1, 5-2 and 8-4 at the quarter time breaks. Aleksandar Ivovic (MNE) scored three lifting his tournament tally to 11 over four games.

Nicolae Diaconu (ROU) scored two of his three goals in the last quarter as Romania matched Montenegro in all phases of the game. Diaconu now has nine goals from his four matches. When asked his thoughts about today's match, the player responded: "We started bad and we never had the lead. But we were very tired from our first three games. This was our last chance to qualify. The goalkeeper was better today but our attack was bad."

Istvan Kovacs (HUN) the Romanian head coach was candid about his team's play: "After our loss to Hungary, these guys knew that their dreams were virtually over, though we had two matches ahead. And their spirits work like this - after the chances are gone they are not there 100%, neither physically or mentally. I even had to keep some players on the bench since their negligence destroyed the team's discipline. Sometimes we went for nicely set actions and missed. The Montenegrins didn't give a dam to play nicely. If they saw their chance for a shot, they just let the ball fly. They play straight and merciless. In this sport this is the way to win matches."

Nikola Janovic (MNE) thought he and his teammates did what they needed to do: "We played a high quality match. I'm satisfied. We are a very good team. Britain (their next likely opponent) isn't as good as the other teams in the group but we will still concentrate in the same way." His teammate Drasko Brguljan (MNE) was optimistic on his team's future: "We are only a small country, but only of couple of medal changes, but we are hoping to be the first to grab a medal (our next match against Great Britain on Monday) is not going to be a training match. We will not take them lightly, however we will try to get a good lead in the first half so that we can rest for our next match."

Romanian head coach Ranko Perovic (MNE) spoke confidently about his team's play: "We've had some bad experiences with the Romanian team in the past so we took this match seriously and started strong. Towards the end we conceded some easy goals but the match had already been decided. We have to respect our opponent (likely Great Britain on Monday) and the game. We are stronger but Great Britain have improved so we have to be careful."


Croatia continues winning ways, drubs Australia 11-6

Croatia kept up their 100% winning record in Group A by beating Australia 11-6 in the men's action. It was Croatia's fourth win. Australia is on the verge of dropping out of medal contention due to their one win, three loss record.

Australia scored first but Croatia shot 3-1 early in the second quarter. The score was 5-2 at half time and with a late goal on an extra man attack by Croatia, the score favoured them 8-4 at the final break. Four time Olympian Thomas Whalan (AUS) saw his dream of making the final eight slipping away, but he still scored three goals in the second half. His goals today were the first goals of his London 2012 experience: "It feels good for my own confidence, but it's no consolation. We're still not down and out. I'm certainly not laying down. I'm giving my all and the boys are giving their all. It's not a lack of confidence this team has. No matter what the results are, I just know we will bounce back."

Australia head coach John Fox (AUS) accepted responsibility for his team unsuccessful plan: "We scored six goals from 29 shots. They scored 11 from 18. We talked about shot execution, what we needed to do to score, but we only did it six times. It's our fault. Their defence is good but there are certain ways to break it. We didn't. If Greece win against Spain (as he expects Italy to defeat Kazakhstan later today) then we are out. It's as simple as that. We will be cheering for the Spanish."

Maro Jokovic (CRO), Sandro Sukno (CRO) and Niksa Dobud (CRO) scored two each for Croatia, who need only to beat Kazakhstan on Monday to complete their group sweep ahead of Wednesday's quarterfinals. Sukno (CRO) observed: "It is maybe psychologically important, but all the teams in the other group are tough too. It doesn't really matter how many I score as long as the team wins." His teammate Miho Boskovic (CRO) was pleased with his team's play and offered his explanation about what goes on underwater: "Finishing (at the) top of the group was most important thing because there are some tough teams in the other group. It is rough (under the water). It's not quite boxing under there, but more like wrestling most of the time."

Winning coach Ratko Rudic (CRO) was complimentary of his Australian opponents: "Australia is a very uncomfortable opponent. They've got a strong defence and they are strong swimmers. We have been stopped in the first quarter but later we gained back our style of play and won. I have wanted the first spot because now we can start preparations for the quarterfinals. The next and last group match against Great Britain is without any significance, but we will play it professionally."

Both teams converted three of nine on extra man attack.


Spain defeats Greece, 11-9 in fourth day of Group A play

Spain progressed to the men's quarterfinals by defeating Greece 11-9 in a Group A match. It was the third win for four outings for Spain. The Iberians are assured a spot in the top eight regardless of their final match against Italy on Monday. Greece has three points from four games and need to beat Australia for the final berth.

Spain used their all-around shooting skills with Biai Mallarach (ESP), Albert Espanol (ESP) and Filipe Perrone (ESP) netting two each. Perrone (ESP) lifted his tally to nie for the week with one from the penalty line and the other on Spain's favoured counter attack in which they left the tournament after three days.  

Greece was a worth opponent and kept in touch, but Spain led 4-3, 8-5 and 9-7 at the quarters. The margin stretched 11-8 which proved too big a gap to bridge. Evagelos Delakas was the sole double scorer for Greece. Both teams scored twice on man-up situations, Greece enjoying 10 chances and Spain only seven.

Greek head coach Dragan Andric (SRB) explained why he thought his team lost: "We haven't overcome the fear and pressure. They (Spain) have had more competitive matches than us. We have conceded too many goals in the first two quarters, eight in total. Then the stress disappeared and we started playing as we should. (Our match against Australia on Monday) is the most important match. We will have to win that one or get at least a draw (to qualify). We have to deal with the big pressure."

Greek player Georgios Afroudakis (GRE) offered his explanation for his team's loss: "We didn't make a good start. We were nervous and we were not good defensively. The key was the poor start. (In our next game against Australia) it will be like a final as we need to win. But we are a good team and we can play better." His teammate Theodoros Chatzithedorou (GRE) said about today's match and Monday's next game: "We are disappointed because we missed our first chance to go through to the quarterfinals, but we will now focus on Australia in a game that is very important for us. (Losing) is not the way that I want to leave the Olympics. I am dreaming of returning to Greece on August the 12th, not on Monday." 

Spanish head coach Rafael Aguilar (ESP) confirmed that his team is playing better and better, game by game: "We try to speed up now. This is the Olympic Games where each match is demanding, but we have to reach our peak soon. It's important to keep the team's spirit high and the best way to do it is by winning matches." Spanish player Albert Espanol (ESP) spoke about what worked well in today's game: "We started really well and had a strong rhythm from the beginning. It was our first goal (to qualify for the quarterfinals) and we have achieved that, but we have a long way in front of us and the games will be more difficult." Spanish player Ivan Perez (ESP) offered his relief that his team has advanced to the quarterfinals: "In the third quarter we maintained a good defence and this gives us confidence for the next game (against Italy on Monday). We are very happy, but now the challenge is to finish in as high of a position as possible." 

  

Italy qualifies for quarterfinals with 9-6 victory over Kazakhstan

World champions Italy joined the quarterfinal qualifiers with a 9-6 victory over Kazakhstan in a fourth day Group A match  Italy's second win, to go with one draw and one loss, was enough to reach the final eight before their fifth group match against Spain on Monday. Kazakhstan's fourth consecutive loss means they will play only one more game before leaving the competition.

Italy led 4-2 at the end of the first quarter thanks for a last gasp Pietro Figlioli goal on extra man attack. The goal increased Italy's margin to 8-4 at half time. Kazakhstan was the better team of the second half. Cristian Presciutti (ITA) was the top scorer with three goals. One was on counter attack, another on extra man attack, and he had an excellent finish with a cross pass on the two metre line. Figlioli converted a penalty for his second goal. Valentino Gallo also netted two. Italian goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti stopped 12 shots.  

Kazakhstan played up to Italy for long periods but the team dropped off in segments. Captain Yevgeniy Zhilyayev (KAZ) and Alexey Shmider (KAZ) scored twice each, Italy netted five from 12 on man up situations compared to Kazakhstan which converted only two from 11.

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Kazakhstan's head coach Sergey Drozdov (KAZ) offered an upbeat assessment of his team's play: "Today we had our best match in the tournament. We made mistakes in the first half, mainly in man down, but for the second half we changed some things and it got better. Italy is a very good team, so losing to them that way is fine for us. In the last match against Greece we played really badly. Our players felt a bit ashamed. Today they wanted to show they could be up to the task. And our best players played much better. Nikolay Maximov in goal was fantastic, he was the key to having such a close match."

Rustam Ukumanov (KAZ) was excluded from the match in the second quarter, explained his situation: "I don't feel good about that, but the referee is always right, I can't judge. Players don't want to be excluded but the referee has to referee. We will have a rest. We get ready and try to show a good game (against Croatia on Monday)." Teammate Sergey Gubarev (KAZ) was reticent to speak about his own play but explained: "I can't talk about my personal performance, as I can't just, but the team played a decent game and we did our best against the world champions. It wasn't an equal game but we fulfilled our coach's guidelines."

Italian head coach Alessandro Campagna (ITA) shared little: "I want my players to play a good match until the end. I was trying to motivate them before the last period."  Italian player Cristian Presciutti (ITA) said: "We played very well and it was important to reach the quarterfinals. Now, every team in the quarterfinals have a chance to win the tournament. We played easy, for a long time today and in the last quarter we were playing in a relaxed way."  

Valentino Gallo (ITA) was quoted: "We don't think about the other teams so we have to think about ourselves only and the way we play. There are five or six teams that could win, as they all play the same way. We are one of the six teams, but we must react to ensure we stay in the competition." Italian teammate Pietro Figlioli (ITA) offered his thoughts about their opponent Spain who Italy will face in the final preliminary game on Monday: "It is going to be a tough game, but both teams are fighting for two positions within the group. We know them very well and how they play. They are very disciplined and they play good water polo. We stepped down within the game (today) so they punished our mistakes. Their goalkeeper is very experiences and very good. It is very annoying as we did let ourselves down within the game as we were hoping for more goals."