Group B of the women’s water polo tournament was given the “group of death” distinction thanks to all four teams being young, talented and medal worthy in Rio. Two of those teams, Hungary and China, faced off in the first game of the women’s tournament Tuesday morning looking for a good start to their chase for a first Olympic water polo medal.
The two teams battled to a 6-6 tie at halftime, but a six goal third quarter by Hungary was too much for the Chinese to overcome as they fell 13-11.
China defeated Hungary 9-8 the last time they played in the World Championships. Both teams featured the top two scorers from that tournament – Hungary’s Rita Keszthelyi was No. 1 and China’s Zihan Zhao was No. 2.
Both played a big part of Tuesday’s match, with Keszthelyi notching three scores for her team and Zhao two for hers.
After China quickly took the lead to start the second half, Hungary rattled off four unanswered goals in four minutes to take a three goal lead, their largest of the day. Two more goals helped the Hungarians take a 12-9 lead into the final eight minutes.
China’s defense held on in the fourth, only allowing one Hungarian goal, but their own two scores weren’t enough to catch up.
Dora Czigany led all scorers with four goals for Hungary. Guanna Niu and Huanhuan Ma had three goals each for China.
The Chinese converted five of their seven extra player shots, and were 2-2 on penalty shots, however they were just 2-7 from beyond five meters.
The road for China doesn’t get any easier, as they will take on defending gold medalists the U.S.A. on Thursday at 10:40 a.m. ET. Hungary will take on Spain Thursday at noon.
Both Brazil’s men’s and women’s water polo teams made the Olympics by virtue of being the host nation, and the women’s team are making their debut in the Games.
While Brazil’s men’s team has surprised many by coming out of the gate with two wins, the women’s team got off to a much more frustrating start, losing their opening round game to Italy 9-3.
Italy, a once women’s water polo gold medalists that has itself had some frustrating years, came to Rio after finishing third in the 2015 World Championships.
The Brazilians kept the game close in the first half, finishing the first two quarters down just 3-1. But Italy opened up the scoring in the third quarter, matching their first half total with three unanswered goals.
Italy’s lead grew to six in the fourth quarter before Brazil scored twice in just over a minute, delighting the heavily favored home crowd.
Roberta Bianconi led all scorers with three goals on six shots. The final six Italian goals were all scored by a different player. Giulia Gorlero finished with a 78.6 percent save percentage, stopping all six of Brazil’s shots from beyond five meters.
Brazil’s Diana Abla, Izabella Chiappini and Amanda Oliveira each notched a goal. Brazilian goalkeeper Tess Oliveira saved 12 of 21 Italian shots.
Australia’s women’s water polo team has medaled in three of the last four Olympics, including a bronze in 2012.
The Australian team came into Rio as the favorites to win Group A, and one of the favorites to compete with the U.S. for a gold medal. They showed why on Tuesday, easily defeating Russia 14-4 in their opening round game.
The 10 goal victory was the largest of any game, men’s and women’s, so far in Rio. Australia scored three goals in the first quarter and five more in the second while holding Russia to just a single goal two minutes before halftime.
Crisp passing and ball movement in front of the goal was the key for Australia, who had four different players score at least two goals. Ash Southern led the Australians with four goals. Rowie Webster and Keesja Gofers added three and Glencora McGhie had two.
Russia came to Rio as a team many thought could upset others and possibly compete for a medal, even though they haven’t medaled in a major championship since 2011.
If that's going to be the case, it wasn't a good start, as the Russians shot just 16 perfect on the day, and were 0-7 on action shots and 0-10 on shots from beyond five meters. Goalkeepers Anna Ustyukhina and Anna Karnaukh had just three saved between them.
Australian goalkeeper Lea Yanitsas saved all four shot attempts sent her way in the first half.
Russia will look to rebound on Thursday when they take on Brazil at 8 a.m. ET. Australia will play Italy Thursday at 9:20 a.m. ET.