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Path to the podium: Men’s Water Polo

25 July 2016

WATER POLO: Australia has long been a mainstay in Olympic men’s water polo. The side made their debut at the 1948 Games and have since been a part of 17 of the last 18 Olympic competitions, only missing out on Atlanta 1996.

The men’s side are yet to win a medal in Olympic competition, coming closest at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1992 Barcelona Games when they claimed fifth.

After an 8th place finish at the 2015 World Championships the side, the Aussies went down by a single goal against the USA in the quarter-finals of the 2016 World League where they would end up claiming fifth.

The Rio 2016 competition will feature two groups of six teams with each side playing each of the other sides in their group once. The top four teams in each group will progress to the quarter-finals with the top team of each group playing the fourth ranked team in the other group and the second and third ranked teams from each group playing against one another.

The Australian side will kick off their Rio 2016 campaign by taking on hosts Brazil, before they then face Hungary, Japan, Serbia and Greece in Group B.

A host of the Australian players give us their thoughts on the sides that stand in the way of the side winning their first Olympic medal in Rio

Brazil
2015 World Championship result: 10th
Best Olympic Games result: Quarter-finals Antwerp 1960, 12th 1984 Los Angeles
London 2012 result: Did not quality
Recent results vs Australia: Brazil 9-13 Australia (2016 World League)
Rhys Howden: “We’ll be expecting a pretty vocal crowd playing the home country. It’s going to be more about us and what we need to do to overcome this strong Brazilian team. It’s going to be important first game, it will be important to win every game but to get the first game out of the way with a win would be fantastic.

Rowing pictogram

Hungary
2015 World Championship result: 6th
Best Olympic Games result: gold – 1932 Los Angeles, 1936 Berlin, 1952 Helsinki, 1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo, 1976 Montreal, 2000 Sydney, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008
London 2012 result: 5th
Recent results vs Australia: Hungary 16-15 Australia (2016 friendly international)
Jonno Cotterill: “They are traditionally one of the stronger nations and they’ve got some amazing individual players. In the last couple of years they haven’t been as strong – they won the World Champs in 2013. It’s going to be a hard, tough game and if we’re not switched on they are the sort of team that can punish us in those moment’s we’re switched off, so we just need to reduce our errors and really put pressure on them and see how they react.”

Japan
2015 World Championship result: 13th
Best Olympic Games result: 
London 2012 result: Did not qualify
Recent results vs Australia: Japan 7-12 Australia (2016 World League)
George Ford: “Japan play quite a different style to the rest of the world, in terms of their speed, agility and the way they play in the lane. And press, they have a phenomenal press that they play. We’ve had some slow starts against them recently but that’s a focus of ours so we’ll need to start the first quarter really well and just control them.”

Rowing pictogram

Serbia
2015 World Championship result: gold
Best Olympic Games result: silver – Athens 2004 (as Serbia and Montenegro), bronze – Beijing 2008, London 2012 
London 2012 result: bronze
Recent results vs Australia: Serbia 10-9 Australia (2015 World Championships)
Joel Dennerley: “They are the most in form team in the world at the moment. They’ve won the major tournaments in the last few years so we can expect a very tough match up.  We do match up well against them and we’ve had some close contests with them. We’ve been fortunate enough to have experience against them in the last few major tournaments so we’ll do our best to prepare for the match. We condition ourselves to try and be in the most superior form and try an play high intensity game that will really try to stretch them as much as possible. As with all our games we’ll focus on defence and we’ll know we’ll have to play a strong defence.”

Rowing pictogram

Greece
2015 World Championship result: bronze
Best Olympic Games result: 
London 2012 result: 9th
Recent results vs Australia: Greece 10-5 Australia (2016 World League)
Nathan Power: “It’s going to be a tough grind. Looking at the games we played against them recently, in Singapore, it was only 2-1 at half time. It’s going to be  very tough, physical counter – both teams for certain will be wrecked after the game and I’m predicting there will only be 1 or 2 goals in it at the most. They are a very patient team, they are very methodical and when you play them they are going to use the full extent of the shot clock, they are prepared to pass on a centre forward on the very last second of attack. It’s a very mentally tough game.”

Matt Bartolo
olympics.com.au

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