Olympics

US men fall in water polo quarters

Share This Story

   
 

LONDON (AP)

The US men's water polo team prepared for the Olympics like a champion. It won't be leaving London as one.

Croatia put an early end to the Americans' Olympic campaign on Wednesday with a sterling performance at both ends of the pool, slicing through the US defense with pinpoint shooting and shutting down the American attack behind a strong outing from goalkeeper Josip Pavic.

The 8-2 quarterfinal loss was especially bitter for a veteran US squad that spent seven months together this year training six days a week with the firm belief that if any team could win the country's first Olympic gold in the sport since 1904, this was the one.

Gabby Douglas

DIG IN!

Find out the dirty details of your favorite athletes in London with our athlete directory.

"I'm really searching for answers," U.S. center forward Ryan Bailey said. "We had a great training, we've been together for seven to eight months training, just ourselves, getting in great shape. Physically we're fantastic, best we've ever been. And then we came out and kind of laid an egg in some of these games. I have no excuses.

"We came into this Olympics wanting and thinking that we would win a medal, and we really haven't performed. I don't take anything away from Croatia, those guys played their butts off and played great defense and completely shut us down on six-on-five. They're a great team, but we just didn't have it today."

The Americans didn't have it Wednesday, nor really any other day at the London Olympics. Other than an opening 8-7 win against Montenegro, a veteran US team that boasts 10 players from the 2008 squad never really showed up in London, struggling defensively and sputtering in big games offensively.

After their opening victory, they played well enough to win their next two preliminary-stage games, but those came against the group's weakest teams, Romania and Britain. Then came the heavyweights, Serbia and Hungary, who exposed the cracks in front of the American goal to hand the US two straight losses, dropping the team to the No. 4 seed and setting up the quarterfinal matchup against undefeated Croatia.

Olympic rifle

MAKING HISTORY

All the scores are in the books, all the medals are around necks. Find out who was golden with our full Olympics results.

And on Wednesday against a Croatia team considered one of the leading medal contenders, things only got worse.

The Croats jumped out to a 5-0 lead by halftime with ferocious defense on one end of the pool and efficient shooting on the other. The Americans clawed back to 5-2 halfway through the third quarter, but Miho Boskovic responded for Croatia with his second goal before Sandro Sukno added another with four seconds left in the quarter to put the game out of reach.

"We came out hard, we played hard — I can't fault the effort out there — it's just our shots weren't falling today and sometimes that's how it goes,'' Bailey said. ''You hope it's not in the quarterfinals of the Olympics, but sometimes that's how it happens."

The loss brings an end to the international career of many of the Americans, Bailey's included, and starts what will likely be a bit of a rebuilding phase for the US team.

"We're going to lose a number of these guys, a number of them are going to retire, and the next generation is going to have some big footprints to fill in," U.S. coach Terry Schroeder said. "We chose a team that was an older team, and thought that experience would give us our best chance, but it didn't work out."

TWEET-NESS!

How are the athletes adjusting to the Olympics being over? See their latest tweets.

Croatia moves on to the semifinals, where it will face a talented Montenegro team that beat Spain 11-9 earlier Wednesday to reach its second straight Olympic semifinal.

Italy, meanwhile, brought an end to Hungary's decade-long domination of Olympic water polo, upsetting the three-time defending champions 11-9 to advanced to the semifinals.

Captain Maurizio Felugo put the game away late for the Italians, slotting home a long-distance shot to hold off a Hungarian surge in the fourth quarter and give Italy a two-goal cushion with 58 seconds to go.

"We played at the highest level," Felugo said. "We know that we work very hard and this is the way we like it. The way we play water polo is the way others try to play."

Italy will next play gold medal-favorite Serbia, which survived a scare from Australia. That game will be a rematch of the 2011 world championship final that Italy won 8-7.

For Hungary, the loss brings an end to a golden era for the traditional power in the sport.

"I feel empty. I didn't expect this game," said Tamas Kasas, who won three golds for Hungary. "We didn't play well. Maybe they were stronger in the head today, and congratulations for them. It was a tough loss."

Tagged: Ryan Bailey

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by


OLYMPIC VIDEOS

Olympian Van Dyken injured in ATV accident

Posted: Jun 09, 2014
America's Pregame provides an update on the condition of former Olympic swimmer ...

Phelps clocks fastest qualifying time in return

Posted: Apr 24, 2014
Michael Phelps clocks the fastest qualifying time in 100-meter butterfly at the ...

Clark claims 7th US Open halfpipe crown

Posted: Mar 09, 2014
Watch Kelly Clark land the first-ever cab 1080 en route to claiming her 7th win ...

Gold wins US Open halfpipe

Posted: Mar 09, 2014
Watch Taylor Gold's US Open-clinching run in the halfpipe, featuring an epic Fro...

Blind skier prepares for 2014 Paralympic Games

Posted: Mar 07, 2014
Blind skier Staci Mannella pushes the limits as she prepares for the 2014 Paraly...

Fox Sports Store

MORE THAN SPORTS on MSN