The two biggest surprises of the Rio games in men’s water polo has been the success of the upstart Brazilian team, and the lack of wins by gold medal favorites Serbia.
The two teams met Wednesday and the incredible run in Rio continued for the Brazilians when they took down Serbia 6-5 to improve to 3-0.
Tied 3-3 at the half, Brazil grabbed their first lead with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter on long distance shot down the middle by Bernardo Gomes. Their lead grew to two heading into the fourth quarter.
Serbia has trailed through three quarters in each of their opening games, but had managed to comeback and finish in a tie against Hungary and Greece. On Wednesday they scored two goals tie the game at five with 3:42 remaining.
The teams traded saves from there. It wasn’t until there were 46 seconds remaining when a ball over the top to Brazil's Gustavo Guimaraes drew a foul in the two-meter zone, giving Guimaraes a penalty shot. Guimaraes bounced it into the bottom corner past a pouncing Branislav Mitrovic for the goal, and untimately the win.
Serbia got the ball back with time for one final possession, and put in a shot that bounced and was saved in the air by Slobodan Soro, giving Serbia their first loss of the tournament.
The Brazilian fans, who had almost packed full the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, were as excited about the players in the pool. Brazil hadn’t qualified for the Olympics in water polo in more than 30 years, and only made this year's tournament by virtue of being the host. Now they’re guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1920.
Brazil will take on Greece Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Serbia (0-1-2) is currently fifth in Group A and will need to win their final two games to have any hope of moving on. They will play Australia Friday night at 9:10 p.m. ET.
Both Japan and Australia came into Wednesday’s men’s water polo match looking for their first win in hopes of making the top four in their group to move on to the quarterfinals.
Japan more than anyone needed a win Wednesday, but in the end they couldn’t find a way to get past Australian goalkeeper Joel Dennerley, and they dropped their third match 8-6.
The teams fought close in the first half, taking a 3-3 tie into the break. Australia came out of the break swinging though, rattling off three straight goals in the first five minutes of play.
The Japanese team scored twice in the final minutes of the third, including an action shot by Koji Takei with 16 seconds remaining to head into the final quarter down 6-5.
Japan had several chances to take the lead in the fourth, but Dennerley was always there to ruin their day. He had two saves on two straight shots, and took the ball away on a pass attempt in front of the goal for a turnover with less than two minutes remaining.
Down 8-5, Mitsuaki Shiga fired a bullet from long range into the goal for Japan with 1:14 remaining to bring his team within two, but Shiga then missed a shot with 31 seconds remaining, allowing Australia to run the clock out and get the win.
Joe Kayes led all scorers with four goals for Australia, and teammate Aaron Younger had three.
Takei and Keigo Okawa had two goals each to lead Japan. As a team, the Japanese made just two of their 11 shots attempts from beyond five meters.
Australia lost their first game in disappointing fashion, but bounced back with a hard fought tie of Hungary. With three points, Australia (1-1-1) currently sits in second in Group A, but will still need to avoid losing both of their final games to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive. They’ll play gold medal favorite Serbia Friday at 9:10 p.m. ET.
Japan lost their first game to Greece after dropping a three-goal lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Their second game wasn’t as close, falling to Brazil 16-8. The Japanese (0-3) will need to win their final two games and get some help if they hope to make the top four in Group A to move on to the quarterfinals. They will Hungary on Friday at 8 a.m. ET.
Just before halftime of Wednesday’s game between Hungary and Greece, Greek driver Angelos Vlachopoulos took a Hungarian shot attempt off the face, forcing him to have to leave the pool.
Thankfully for the Greek team, Vlachopoulos wasn’t injured, and was able to help his team down the stretch.
Down a goal with under a minute remaining, Vlachopoulos fired a long range shot past Hungarian goalie Viktor Nagy to tie the game at 8-8 with five seconds remaining. Hungary’s last second shot attempt fell short and both teams avoided their first losses of the Rio Games.
Hungary was in control for most of the first half, and took a 3-2 lead into half time. Three straight goals from Greece to start the third quarter helped them take their first lead since the start of the first quarter. Vlachopoulos opened the scoring for his team in the half on an extra player shot to tie the game, and teammate Konstantinos Genidounias hit a shot from long distance to take the 4-3 lead.
Hungary battled to make it interesting in the fourth, retaking the lead after scoring two goals to open the quarter. The final eight minutes featured five goals and three ties before the final whistle.
Vlachopoulos finished with a team-high three goals on six shot attempts. Genidounias and Alexandres Goulas added two goals apiece. Hungary’s Balazs Harai had three goals on three attempts. Neither team was particularly threatening from beyond five meters. Hungary went 2-9 and Greece went 3-15 on long range attempts.
Hungary (0-0-3) sits in fourth place with two games remaining. They’ll play Friday against Japan at 8 a.m. ET. Greece (1-0-2) will face Japan at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.
Much like the game that preceded it, most of the game between Italy and Montenegro was a master class in water polo defense. With just six combined goals scored through the first three quarters, the final eight minutes saw nearly as many scores as the rest of the game combined.
With 33 seconds remaining and a chance to tie the game, Montenegro again fell victim to Italy’s defense, with a final shot blocked as time expired to help Italy get their third win of the tournament 6-5.
Montenegro came into the game with 14 goals scored in their first two matches. Wednesday, they went more than 12 minutes without a goal, going scoreless in the third quarter.
Italy led 4-2 heading into the fourth quarter of a windy and rainy match. The final quarter, they twice kept that two goal lead until Montenegro cut it to one with 1:31 remaining. After Italy goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti saved a shot from the center, Montenegro’s Drasko Brguljan caught Tempesti’s rebound and tapped the ball into the net.
Montenegro was just 5-22 shooting on the day, missing all seven shots from beyond five meters. Tempesti saved seven of 12 shot attempts.
Despite two losses, Montenegro has allowed just 18 goals, the lowest of any team through three games in Rio.
Francesco Di Fulvio led all scorers with three goals.
Unbeaten Italy (3-0-0) now sits atop the Group B standings. They’ll take on top ranked Croatia Friday at 9:20 a.m. ET. Montenegro (1-2-0) it’s in a three-way tie for third in Group B. They’ll face fellow 1-2-0 team U.S.A. Friday at 10:40 a.m. ET.
Immediately following Brazil’s upset of Serbia in Game 5 Wednesday, Croatia, the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalists and a probable for the podium in Rio, was also upset. The winning team this time was Spain, who took down Croatia in dominant fashion, 9-4 for their second win.
Spain outscored the Croatians in all four quarters, including four goals in the fourth quarter to just one from Croatia.
The Spanish defense held Croatia to just 16 percent shooting on the night, 0-3 on extra player shots and 2-9 on shots from beyond five meters. Goalkeeper Daniel Pinedo had 11 saves on 15 shots on goal.
Gonzalo Echenique led Spain with four goals, his second straight game leading his team in scoring. Spain had six different players score on the night. Croatia’s four goals came from four different players.
Croatia won their first two games on defense, allowing just 12 goals in their first two games. Spain came into Wednesday’s match having scored 18 goals in their first two games while Croatia notched just 15 in theirs.
The win puts Spain (2-1-0) in a tie for second with Croatia (2-1-0) in Group B. Both teams return to the pool Friday with Spain taking on France at 7:50 p.m. ET and Croatia playing Italy at 9:20 a.m. ET.
Men's water polo coverage continues Friday at 8 a.m. ET with Hungary taking on Japan.