United States of America cruised into the semifinals for a match-up with what turned out to be Hungary, by beating Japan 20-6.

It was built on two 6-1 periods in the middle of the match and superior ball skills, superb timing and deft shifts in the water that brought players on to shoot. USA’s accuracy, ability to draw penalty fouls with bigger, stronger centre forwards, proved crucial elements in what was a tough assignment for the smaller Japanese. USA converted all five of its penalty attempts.

Japan was left to pick up scraps, collect just two extra-man-attack goals and had to rely on more than the obvious firepower of Yumi Arima, who netted twice but was fouled from the match early in the fourth quarter.

USA started with the first three goals in three minutes — two from Madeline Musselman from the left side of the pool. Mel Seidemann scored the first of her two goals and later proved the expert in attracting penalty fouls. Akari Inaba broke the North American spell with a shot from the left.

Alys Williams opened the second-quarter scoring with a lob from two metres for 5-1 and Arima finished a counterattack with a lob. USA rattled in five straight goals, with a pair from captain Maggie Steffens, to close the half at 10-2.

Goals were hard to come by for Japan in the third period with Eruna Ura scoring on extra from deep left. It wasn’t for the lack of trying as Japan had plenty of chances, but the defence and goalkeeping proved impenetrable. A pair of penalty goals was the result of dual Olympic champion Seidemann’s extended experience and brilliance. Stephanie Harabalidis netted the second and then drilled one on extra-man attack, her 10th goal of the week.

Arima opened the fourth-quarter scoring from centre forward off a crisp cross pass; another shot hit the cross bar on a centre-forward lob, then Kyoko Kudo gained her second goal in Athens with a counter-attack lob for 16-5. Arima went for her third major foul at 4:58, gifting a penalty foul, which Makenzie Fischer converted. Kako Kawaguchi finished off an extra-man chance for 19-6 and Seidemann’s centre-forward score off a cross pass sealed the match and Japan’s fate.

Japan will now go to the round of 5-8 semifinals where it will play Greece.

Full match statistics — http://results.microplustiming.com/athens2021

Russia survived a tense and exciting quarterfinal with Greece, winning in a penalty shootout 12-10 after the match was tied at 8-8.

Both teams led the encounter four times; both teams gained little on extra-man attack — with Russia scoring the only conversion — and both teams won two quarters. It was really a match of many facets with plenty of attempts and plenty of steals; Russia made six and Greece eight. It was not to be for Greece. One step away from qualifying for the Olympic Games and now at least four steps from winning in Athens. Perhaps the lack of spectators did not help it get across the line.

Greece had to level and then Russia before Christina Tsoukala (GRE) — we will miss her skills in Tokyo — nailed a shot from deep left in the last second for the 3-2 quarter-time lead and her second goal.

Russia levelled and Greece went ahead through Eirini Ninou on extra-man attack. Russia bristled and scored a pair — Nadezhda Glyzina on counter and Maria Bersneva with a lob from deep right. Tsoukala brought Greece even and goals were shared to close the half. Nikoleta Eleftheriadou managed her extra-man goal with just one hundredth of a second left on the clock.

Greece had the better of the third period after Bersneva went on counter for 7-6. It was Eleftheriadou who scored two from the left for the 8-7 advantage. At the top of the period, Elvina Karimova had a chance from the penalty line only for goalkeeper Ioanna Stamatopoulou to shut it down.

With nearly three minutes gone in the final period, Alena Serzhantova screamed one in from the top, hitting the water and dribbling over the line. Anna Timofeeva saw the ball bobbling and drove in to make sure it was a goal. A VAR decision showed that the first shot was good. It was now 8-8 and 5:17. Both teams frantically tried to shoot, but were hindered by the stout defences and the goalkeepers’ close presence. Russia took one timeout and Greece two for no result, meaning the match was tied and a penalty shootout required.

Russia started and the first three shots were good. For Eleftheriadou there was no fourth goal as Anna Karnaukh clipped the shot with her left hand. The next three went in with Russia sitting pretty at 12-10. Vasiliki Plevritou had her shot hit the right elbow of Karnaukh and Russia was through and Greece sent to the 5-8 play-offs.

Full match statistics — http://results.microplustiming.com/athens2021