Men's Water Polo Falls in Final Prelim Game

By Associated Press | Aug. 06, 2012, 12 p.m. (ET)
Tony Azevedo
Tony Azevedo passes during a preliminary round match against Romania on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games

LONDON -- Norbert Hosnyanszky scored three times to power defending champion Hungary to a dominating 11-6 win Monday over the U.S. in the teams' final preliminary-stage game in men's water polo, while Australia upset Greece 13-8 to become the last team to reach the quarterfinals.

After two losses to open the games, Hungary finally found the form that won it the last three Olympic titles. Zoltan Szesci made eight saves in goal in Hungary's strongest defensive performance of the tournament.

"This was our best match of the tournament and I'm very happy about this performance and our defense was perfect," Hungary star Tamas Kasas said. "We have to immediately forget this match and look to the next one in two days because that will be more important. We have a chance. The team is very good now, but we have to continue on this road."

Both the U.S. and Hungary had both already secured spots in the quarterfinals, although their seeds for the knockout stage will only be set after the last Group B game later Monday between medal contender Montenegro and winless Britain.

The U.S. loss leaves it even with Hungary in Group B with six points, but behind in the head-to-head tiebreaker.

After a tight first quarter, Hungary broke the game open early in the second with three goals in quick succession to seize the momentum and a 4-0 lead. U.S. captain Tony Azevedo converted a penalty to pull one back, but the Americans never looked capable of truly cracking a Hungarian defense that clearly wanted to prove itself after a string of shaky performances earlier in the tournament.

On the other end of the pool, the Hungary attack whipped in goals from long distance, underlining the defensive woes that have hurt the American in two straight losses in London after opening the games with three wins.

A clearly frustrated Azevedo, who is playing in his third Olympics, said the Americans' problem was simple: "It's defense, that's it."

"Six goals is not enough, but that's fine," he said. "But when on defense you can't make a stop, you can't expect to win. Defense is the part of the game that's really the easiest to change. It's heart and it's passion, and right now we're not playing with it, and I honestly can't tell you why."

Monday's game was a rematch of the 2008 Olympic final in Beijing, which Hungary won 14-10.

Earlier, Australia filled out the quarterfinal bracket, advancing to the knockout stage by upsetting Greece 13-8 behind three goals from Rhys Howden.

Needing a victory to advance to the quarterfinals, Australia used a five-goal second quarter to grab an 8-5 lead by halftime, then scored the first three goals after the break to extend it to 11-5. Greece, which could have advanced with just a draw, never recovered.

"It was a relief. We had a lot of criticism, and we had a long meeting yesterday that was player driven so the accolades go to those guys," Australia coach John Fox said.

Australia reaches the quarterfinals as the fourth seed out of Group A, and will play Serbia, which beat Kazakhstan 12-4 to win Group B, in the knockout stage.

Greece fell to fifth in Group A with the loss and was eliminated from the tournament.

Croatia, meanwhile, had little trouble with winless Kazakhstan, pouring it on early to open up a 5-0 lead and cruise to an easy win. Niksa Dobud scored five goals for Croatia, which already had secured the group's top seed for the knockout stage.

"It don't mean nothing before the quarterfinals," Dobud said in English. "If we lose there we go home, so we need to be good at the right time in the quarterfinal and then we go for medals, and that's the reason we came here."

With the loss, Kazakhstan finished at the bottom of Group A.

While Croatia, which won the FINA World League title last month, emerges from the preliminary stage unbeaten and largely untested, it faces a much harder road in a knockout stage where it will have to tangle with four powerful teams advancing from Group B: gold medal-favorite Serbia, three-time defending champion Hungary, 2012 European championship silver medalist Montenegro and 2008 Olympic silver medalist the U.S.

In the late games, Montenegro closes out Group B play against winless Britain, which only qualified for the tournament as the host nation. In Group A, Spain plays Italy for the No. 2 seed out of Group A in the quarterfinals.

Comments