World champion Italy shut out the counter-attacking Japan in the first quarter and cruised to a 16-8 victory in Group A. Italy is unbeaten and Japan will leave the competition on Monday with no chance of making the quarterfinals. Greece is also unbeaten, after downing South Africa 28-5 in the final match of the day. Ironically, Japan and South Africa will face off for fifth position in the group on Monday. Progress points: Group A: GRE 7, ITA 7, HUN 6, USA 4, JPN 0, RSA 0. Group B: ESP 8, CRO 6, SRB 4, MNE 4, AUS 2, KAZ 0.
Italy remained unbeaten, collecting its third victory to go with the 6-6 draw with Greece, downing the effervescent Japan 16-8 in Group A action.
It was Japan’s penultimate match at Tokyo 2020 and must wait until Monday to see if it will win its first match — against fellow non-qualifier South Africa. Italy will play Hungary to sort out their final rankings heading into Wednesday’s do-or-die quarterfinals.
Italy did not allow Japan to play its normal game in the first quarter and this led to a 5-0 shut-out, Italy surging upfield followed by its major artillery. Michael Bodegas scored twice and captain Pietro Figlioli converted a penalty foul among the five goals. The third goal was sent in by Francesco Di Fulvio, celebrating his 200th international appearance. It was his 11th goal in Tokyo for 19 in Olympic competition.
In the second period, Japan was given a chance to expand its counter-attacking tyle and frustrating Italy for a 3-3 period. Yusuke Inaba, the younger brother of Japanese women’s player Akari Inaba — the only brother-sister combination at Tokyo 2020 — opened for Japan and Mitsuru Takata and Atsushi Arai made their mark. Arai earlier watched his first-quarter penalty attempt sail well above the crossbar as it slipped from his hand.
Vincenzo Renzuto, playing his 101st international, converted a penalty while Nicola Figari accepted a half-pool pass to score and Bodegas collected a second as Italy turned at 8-3.
While Japan had Italy stretched over the whole length of the pool in the second quarter, Italy regained control, pressured the Japanese goals and won the stanza 3-1. Figlioli bookended Figari and Mitsuaki Shiga converted counter-attack. Italy went into the final period 11-4 ahead. Figlioli’s hat-trick brought up his 49th goal at five Olympic Games.
Italy opened the fourth with two goals before Inaba converted his fifth penalty in Tokyo for 13-5. Goals were traded with Alessandro Velotto scoring on extra and Toi Suzuki motoring down the right lane on counter. Stefano Luongo lifted it to 15-6; Inaba converted the penalty for his third; Vincenzo Dolce scored a penalty goal and Seiya Adachi blasted from the left side of the pool with an immaculate swinging shot for 16-8.
Match 22, 18:20, Group A, ITALY 16 JAPAN 8
Quarters: 5-0, 3-3, 3-1, 5-4
Referees: Stanko Ivanovski (MNE), Nenad Peris (CRO).
Shots: ITA: 16/26. JPN: 8/32.
Extra Man: ITA: 7/9. JPN: 4/10.
Pens: ITA 3/3. JPN: 2/2.
Sandro Campagna (ITA) — Head Coach
"That's the first time I’ve seen my players play the fast water polo style that the Italian team used to play. It was a good game and we can now start focusing on the quarterfinals. It's time for all the players to play at 100 per cent. The Italian team is fast as well, so it was a fast game, for sure. We wanted to control the game, but I said to the players to use our own counter-attacks against Japan. The Japanese players like to make a lot of movement in offence, but by doing this they also expose their defence in these moments.”
Yoji Omoto (JPN) — Head Coach
“We tried to keep making counter-attacks to try to take control of the game, but we made some mistakes with our passing and we lost our momentum. That's one of the reasons why we could not keep up with the pace of the game. In the first and third periods it was hard to keep up the pace and small mistakes, a team like Italy will not allow us to score. We are not confident enough to beat the best teams in Europe. We are fast and have good tactics, but Italy knows our counter-attack and defends hard. Our attacks need to be better. They kept strong pressure on the ball to stop Japanese attacks. I keep telling the ball holder that he has to play hard.”
GROUP B: SOUTH AFRICA-GREECE — 5-26
Greece made sure of the two points to stay unbeaten in Tokyo, downing South Africa 28-5 in their Group A clash.
Greece did it in style with a 7-1 first quarter after the scores were tied at 1-1, thanks to a Devon Card equaliser.
The score blew out to 9-1 in the second period with South Africa taking a timeout to set an extra-man play, which came off with a cross pass to Nardus Badenhorst on the right post steered into goal. Jason Evezard scored on the next attack for the Rainbow Nation for a comforting 9-3. Greece retook control, easing out to 12-3 at halftime.
Greece won the third period 7-1, Ross Stone sending in a slider for South Africa. By now Ioannis Fountoulis, surprisingly with only three goals in Tokyo before the match, fired in five by the final break — three in the first quarter. Stylianos Argyropoulos, who started Greece’s landslide, added two more in the third. Alexandros Papanastasiou scored twice from the same position, sending his shots in cross cage and Marios Kapotsis also scored twice. Ross Stone nailed South Africa’s fourth with a slider from the right-hand-catch position at 14-4.
Greece continued the onslaught in the fourth, showing respect to South Africa who seemed to be getting better with each match. It’s big test will be against Japan on Monday.
Dimitrios Skoumpakis netted twice and Konstantinos Skoumpakis took a third goal, as did Papanastasiou and Kapotsis. Argyropoulos netted a fourth as the South African defence became too loose. The last word went to with his second, 10 seconds from full time for 28-5.
Match 23, 19:50, Group B, SOUTH AFRICA 5 GREECE 28
Quarters: 1-7, 2-5, 1-7, 1-9.
Referees: John Waldow (NZL), Liang Zhang (CHN).
Shots: RSA: 5/22. GRE: 28/42.
Extra Man: RSA: 2/8. GRE: 7/9.
Pens: GRE: 1/1.
Alexandros Papanastasiou (GRE) — Three Goals
“We just wanted to show respect to South Africa out of and in the water. We had plenty of energy in the water. It was an Olympic Tournament game and we wanted to enjoy it.
Paul Martin (RSA) — Head Coach
“I’m a hell of a lot happier. We had belief in ourselves. It’s the old story, we get three or four games into a tournament to play our best water polo. We were more creative on attack tonight and scored more goals than the rest of the tournament. We created goals we couldn’t in other games. However, the mistakes were still punished by a world-class side. They went out exceptionally hard against us, which shows respect. Generally, I am a hell of a lot happier.”