SPORTS

Greek water polo team ready to take on mighty Hungarians

The men’s national water polo side, which advanced to its first-ever semifinal in world championship competition on Tuesday after defeating the USA, will need to overcome one of the sport’s traditional powerhouses, Hungary, today, at 10 p.m. for a place in the final of the FINA World Championships in Barcelona. Hungary has seven Olympic titles to its credit, the most recent in 2000, as well as six silver and bronze Olympic medals. Greece’s opponent has also been crowned world champion on one occasion, been runner-up four times, and finished third once. For Greece, which has already surpassed its previous best performance in world championship play, which was sixth place, the semifinal berth in Barcelona goes down as a record-breaking accomplishment. The national team, whose prospects for a good run in Barcelona had been written off by many pundits earlier in the tournament after a shaky beginning, bounced back with a fiery win over Russia to advance to the quarterfinals. It then created a stir by defeating the USA to get as far as tonight’s semifinal. In its opening game, Greece was narrowly defeated by Germany. The national team then registered a resounding win over China, but suffered a heavy defeat against Italy in Game 3. In its make-or-break encounter against Russia, Greece played passionately to overcome a mighty opponent in a nail-biting penalty shootout. Had Greece lost that match, the side would have been left out of the quarterfinals and seeking a place between ninth and 12th. But the power of passion, which helped save the day against the Russians, may not be enough for victory against Hungary. Lower expectations from Greece, the underdog, however, could set the stage for fluid and, perhaps, match-winning play. The Hungarians have reportedly already written off Greece as a pleasant surprise after expecting to meet the USA in the semis. «I know the Hungarians are underrating us, but we can provide an answer to that in the pool. As the outsider, we’re going to play without anxiety. The Hungarians are considered the favorite for the title,» said national team player Thodoris Hatzitheodorou. «We’ve got to keep a check on the game’s rhythm. Anything can happen, especially if we play passionately in defense, cover up for each other, and keep the scoring low,» the player added. In women’s competition, Greece defeated Germany yesterday, 10-5, for a final ninth placing.