The national men’s water polo team qualified for the quarterfinals in the FINA World Championships in Barcelona on Sunday after narrowly defeating Russia in the competition’s most nail-biting contest to date. With both sides requiring victory to advance, a penalty shootout was needed to break the deadlock after Greece and Russia were tied at 8-8 and 9-9 after regular and extra time respectively. Greece eventually edged out its opponent with a 6-5 score in a penalty shootout. Greece will now face the USA, a formidable but not invincible opponent, in a knockout quarterfinal encounter tonight. Victory would hand the national team its first ever semifinal berth in the World Championships. In its best ever World Championships performance two years ago, Greece finished sixth. From beginning to end, Greece and Russia fought a close battle. Neither side managed to break away during the game’s nine-minute quarters (3-3, 1-1, 2-1, 2-3). They remained deadlocked after extra time, having scored a goal apiece during the period. «We owe this victory to ourselves and, then, to anyone who stood by us. The most important thing is that Greek water polo is among the leading sides,» said Giorgos Reppas, Greece’s goalie, who blocked three penalty shots in the shootout. «I told myself that I needed to block as many penalties as I could. The victory, and the way it was achieved, gives us momentum for the next phase,» he added. In the other quarterfinal encounters, Hungary will confront Slovakia, Italy plays Australia – which, incidentally, eliminated Croatia, one of the pre-tournament favorites, with a convincing 10-6 score – and Spain will meet Serbia. Greece went into its encounter against Russia with a win and two losses. The national team opened its campaign negatively with a 11-9 defeat against Germany, rebounded to thrash China 17-2, but then lost to Italy, 10-5. The national women’s team will battle for ninth place in a match against Germany tomorrow. It was deprived of a quarterfinal place by Italy, which overcame Greece’s women’s team 8-5 in final-round group play. In the synchronized swimming events, Greece ended 10th in the team events. Russia, Japan and the USA won the medals, in that order.