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Archive for Water Polo

Hungarians Too Tough in Threepeat

The US mens’ water polo team finally fell back to earth on the final day of the Beijing Games, hanging with the vaunted Hungarians for a half before the two-time defending Olympic champs finally pulled away in the second to win 14-10. Despite the loss, this tournament was a huge success for the American men, who grace the medal stand for the first time since current coach Terry Schroeder was suiting up in 1988.

After a 20 year drought of its own, Hungary has now claimed the last three Olympic goal medals, cementing Hungary’s position as the absolute bosom of water polo. Not given a serious chance of medaling by the world polo powers coming into the Olympics, the ninth-ranked Americans certainly made it clear why it’s important to actually play the games. Putting away the likes of Italy and Germany is one thing, and those wins alone would have made this a respectable Olympics for the Americans. But downing Croatia and Serbia — that rocks the very foundations of the European water polo tradition.

With any luck, this performance will help to extricate the USOC’s head, currently stuck in its ass. That august organization allegedly cut the water polo team’s funding — if I heard Wolf Wigo and Generic Sports Announcer’s conversation accurately during the broadcast of the gold-medal game. Throw us a friggin’ bone here.

Congratulations to the team on a magical run. Welcome back to the world’s top tier. Strange things happen when you turn huge brass into solid silver.

Serbs Get Served as Upstart Americans To Play for Gold

The US mens’ water polo team dominated Serbia, 10-5, in the semifinals to continue its magical run through the Beijing Olympic tournament. Through to the gold-medal game, the Americans are assured their first medal since 1988. 

Tony Azevedo scored three times, going off again after failing to score against Germany. He did the same thing in the Croatia game after being held scoreless in the Americans’ 4-2 loss to Serbia in group play. 

The US will face Hungary in the gold-medal game and I, for one, am stoked to see this match-up. If you’re going to win the gold, you may as well beat the best to get it.

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.

Dinging the Dong in Upset City

While the world’s attention was fixed on the Cube, watching Michael Phelps collect his — ho-hum — eight golds and seven WRs, the real spectacle was unfolding over at the Dong. Oh, you haven’t heard of the Dong? While it doesn’t have quite the cache of the Bird’s Nest or the Cube, the Dong — Ying Dong Natatorium — is the place to be in Beijing by those in the know.

Jeff Power winds up.

Jeff Powers winds up.

Tony Azevedo and the rest of the ninth-ranked USA water polo team dinged the dong in a big way, taking down reigning Olympic champion and world No. 1 Croatia, 7-5, in a huge upset and making those lucky, team-building mustaches on the Croatian team seem like nothing more than, well, hair. 

Goal-machine Azevedo roared back from the U.S.’s 4-2 loss to Serbia, in which he went scoreless,  with three goals and an inspired game overall. The Americans showed few weaknesses and made few mistakes as they took control early and locked down the vaunted Croatian offensive attack.

This is a ridiculous upset for the Americans, who haven’t medaled since 88, but it will be nothing more than a nice consolation if they don’t back it up with a win against 2-2 Germany on Monday. It’s win or go home. But after beating the Chinese and Italians, playing the Serbs tough, then giving the world’s best team the business, the Americans have never been better positioned to ride the momentum into the medal round.

Water polo is game of momentum, and no one is rolling quite like the Yanks at the moment. So, as they say in China, keep your eye on the dong.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: USA 9-8 GER

Ratko Vents

Ratko Vents