Hungary and Italy prepared for the quarterfinals with a 5-5 draw in their final Group A encounter, sorting out second place in the process. Hungary had eight points to Italy’s seven and the second match of the morning session was won by Greece who finished atop the rankings with a comfortable 14-5 margin over United States of America, who finish fourth. Greece took nine points from four wins and a draw with Italy.
Hungary and Italy battled to a 5-5 draw, the lowest-scoring match of the men’s competition and contrary to the new style of water polo that balances speed with strength and high scoring.
However, this match was all about defence as the extra-man-attack count shows — Hungary converting two from 11 chances and Italy three from 12. Defence is what will win matches, especially in the do-or-die quarterfinals on Wednesday.
“They never give up; they fight the whole match. This is usual from Italy, mentally. We are the same. We were closer (to victory) than Italy. We had a lot of chances and made some mistakes. Our defence was good; this is a good sign before the quarterfinals.”
The Group A draw lifted Italy to eight points and Hungary to seven.
Szilard Jansik opened the scoring for Hungary, but it took nearly three minutes. Gonzalo Echinique responded on extra from deep right on the next attack. Three minutes later, Hungarian captain Daniel Varga screamed in a missile from 10m.
Matteo Aicardi rose high on the left-post position on extra-man attack to convert for Italy a minute into the second quarter to level the match. Varga netted twice, four minutes apart, one from wide left and the other from seven metres on extra for 4-2 at 1:30, the last scoring of the half.
Italian captain Pietro Figlioli converted a penalty to close the margin to one three minutes into the third quarter. The tight marking continued and it was not until two seconds from time that Daniel Angyal converted the second extra-man chance on the same attack from the right-hand-catch position for 5-3.
Figlioli brought it to 5-4 with a missile from the point position, rifling into the top right precisely to start the final quarter. Hungary used a timeout, but its subsequent shot was blocked. Italy went to a timeout at 1:33 and just before the exclusion time had expired, Francesco Di Fulvio converted for 5-5. Italy went into attack and centre forward Balazs Harai had his backhand shot blocked by Italian goalkeeper Marco Del Luongo and his team had the last chance to secure the victory. Italy drew the exclusion on Harai and the ball whipped around the arc, eventually finding Figlioli at the point. He thought about the shot and popped it into the right post where Michael Bodegas dragged the ball into Hungarian goalkeeper Viktor Nagy with less than a second remaining.
Varga’s three goals from three attempts elevates him to nine in Tokyo. Figlioli’s penalty strike was his third here and brought up his 50th Olympic goal from five visits to the big stage. He now stands at 51. Figlioli played his first two Olympics for Australia and the last three for Italy.
Italy had its second draw of the tournament following its second-day 6-6 effort against Greece.
Match 26, 10:00, Group A, HUNGARY 5 ITALY 5
Quarters: 2-1, 2-1, 1-1, 0-2
Referees: Xevi Buch (ESP), Arkadiy Voevodin (RUS).
Shots: HUN: 5/21. ITA: 5/31.
Extra Man: HUN: 2/11. ITA: 3/12.
Pens: ITA: 1/1.
Viktor Nagy (HUN) — Goalkeeper
"Today we played much, much better than in our other games. Playing a strong defence was the main challenge and we achieved around 90 per cent success. But we always try to win and we couldn’t hold on for the victory, so I’m maybe just 60 per cent happy with this draw.”
Sandro Campagna (ITA) — Head Coach
On coming back to tie the match against Hungary, and the team's third comeback in the tournament: "This is positive, because we never die. This is good training for the knockout matches. You can be down in those and you just cannot give up. You have to focus all the time on your game and play strong until the very end. We played solid in defence today but not so well in attack. At the end we could have won, because on the last extra man we missed. We played it well, but (Michael) Bodegas couldn't find the right shot.” On where the team can improve for the quarterfinals: "There are many things we can improve for the next round. The quarterfinal is a match of psychology, you can play bad the good things, or play well the bad things. It will be an amazing game.”
Vincenzo Renzuto (ITA) — 102nd match for Italy
"We played with a very good mentality because we always stayed in the match. This team never gives up. It was a good match today for our defence, but we could be better in attack and with our man-up."
GROUP A: GREECE-UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — 14-5
Unbeaten Greece had the better of United States of America, winning their final Group A match 14-5 and finishing top of the ladder with four wins and a draw against Italy.
It appeared that Greece was quietly sorting out its plays ahead of Wednesday’s quarterfinals while FINA World League Super Final silver medallist USA was perhaps conserving energy for the more critical matches ahead. Not so, says head coach Dejan Udovicic, labelling the performance as “bad.” In fact, even if USA won today, it could not improve its fourth position.
On being the group winner: “It doesn’t give us some more confidence or belief in our game. I think we like to play as a team really very good, concentrated and defensive; focus on defence. If we want to win, we must play as a team and not individually. The first five games give us confidence and belief.”
Greece had the better of the opening quarter with a two-goal head start and then another pair after a USA Alex Bowen score. Greek captain Ioannis Fountoulis, in his third Olympic Games, scored the second and fourth.
Angelos Vlachopoulos converted a penalty foul to start the second-quarter scoring with Ben Stevenson responding on extra-man attack. Stylianos Argyropoulos tapped in a rebound at two metres for 6-2 and Alex Obert pulled one back from centre forward. Greece had the 6-3 halftime advantage.
USA opened the second half thanks to a booming shot from Max Irving, but Konstantinos Genidounias struck twice and Argyropoulos took Greece to 9-4. Obert completed the extra-man attack, then Genidounias on extra and Fountoulis on counter had the match firmly in Greece’s grasp at 11-5 by the final break.
Greece shut out a tired-looking USA in the final spell with Genidounias collecting his fifth for 12 goals at Tokyo 2020; Christodoulos Kolomvos with a turning goal at centre forward and Fountoulis with the last flourish, shooting cross-cage on extra for 14-5. It was Fountoulis’ fourth goal of the match and 12th in Tokyo and 36th Olympic goal. Not bad for a relative “youngster” at 33 who says “I am the oldest”.
Match 27, 11:30, Group A, GREECE 14 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 5
Quarters: 4-1, 2-2, 5-2, 3-0
Referees: Adrian Alexandrescu (ROU), Michiel Zwart (NED).
Shots: GRE: 14/27. USA: 5/29.
Extra Man: GRE: 4/8. USA: 2/11.
Pens: GRE: 2/2.
Marios Kapotsis (GRE) — Eight Goals at Tokyo 2020
On finishing top of the group: “It's good for us, for our mentality. We are very happy with our performances but whoever we face in the next round will be very difficult, as the other group has so many top teams. We may have finished top, but we still need to improve as from now on, every game is a final.”
Dejan Udovicic (USA) — Head Coach
“That was a very bad game for us, in all aspects. We need to fix things. Tomorrow (rest day) is another day for us to prepare for the quarterfinals.”
Max Irving (USA) — Goal Scorer
“We have to go back and set our minds and play like against Italy in our third game and how we played previously.”