Tiger Who?

Americans Roll Germans on Way to Semis

Schroeder's Army

Schroeder's Army

The US men’s water polo team continues to blow away Olympic expectations, handling Germany, 8-7, in a must-win affair that sees them advancing out of group play for the first time since Barcelona. Naturally, Pub Wisdom predicted the outcome in a previous post.

Even coming off their upset win over world No. 1 Croatia, the victory over Germany is a huge game for the US program. By prevailing, the Americans won their group — ahead of the Croats, Serbs, and Italians, among others — and earned a quarterfinal bye. If they can run their next two games, they’re golden.

Inspired 6-on-5 execution, stout defense, and quality shot-making was the difference in a game in which Tony Azevedo couldn’t score. Two other Americans, including Jeff Powers, netted a pair of goals each against Germany’s goalkeeper, reputed to be the best in the world. To wit, the Americans had only managed three goals against the guy in each of their last two meetings with the Germans, both decisive losses. But the Americans straight lit him up, taking full advantage of their extra-man sets with precision and patient execution while the Germans let their man-up opportunities slip away.

The Germans kept grinding and briefly tied the Americans at 5-5, and also had the apparent equalizer in the final minute — a filthy backhand — but it was disallowed. The Americans would have still advanced with the draw, so the importance of the controversial incident was limited, but drawing instead of winning would have meant no quarterfinal bye. One German, Nossek, scored Germany’s first four goals — he just had the keeper’s number and single-handedly carried the Germans offensively in the first half.

Despite an automatic bid in the final four, the Yanks are still considered underdogs to even medal. They’ll play either Spain or the sneaky Serbs in the semis. Rumors are swirling around the Dong about the Serbs taking a powder in their 12-11 loss to Italy in order to goose the brackets and end up with an easier road to the gold-medal game. By losing the game, they conceded the group to the Americans, who they beat 4-2 in group play, but avoided having to play either arch-rival — and 2007 European champs — Montenegro or perennial contender Hungary in the quarterfinals. Instead, they drew Spain.

So the Americans will likely have to beat Serbia  to advance to the gold-medal match against either Montenegro or Hungary. If they lose, they will no doubt face a stiff test — in the form of some other pissed-off Eastern European powerhouse — in the battle for bronze. Even bronze would be huge for the Americans. But right now, they have to just focus on capitalizing on what they learned in their 4-2 loss to Serbia in group play and staying on the roll that’s seen them beat China, Italy, Croatia, and Germany. As they say in China, keep your eye on the Dong.


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