Olympic champs beat Greece in water polo

Both the men’s and women’s national water polo teams lost to the reigning Olympic champions – Hungary and Italy respectively – at the European Championships in Belgrade yesterday, but nevertheless stayed alive in the competition. The men’s national team, which had captured fourth place at the Athens Olympics, suffered its first defeat at these Europeans with a 10-8 loss to Hungary. In its final group game in the tournament’s preliminary round, against Italy today, the Greek men’s team, coached by Italian Alessandro Campagna, needs at least a draw to advance to the next round, reserved for six teams. Italy, too, would make it through with a draw. Greece, which captured fourth place at the Athens Olympics, managed to outscore Hungary in just one of the game’s four eight-minute periods, 2-1, in the third quarter. Hungary edged ahead with 3-2 scores in all the other quarters. Greece took an early 2-1 lead but Hungary, a traditional powerhouse in the game, responded by building a 5-2 lead with two goals from Tamas Kasas. The Greek team, which had showed impressive fighting spirit a day earlier for a 10-10 draw against the Croats after trailing by two goals in the encounter’s dying stages, showed character once more to level at 6-6 with the equalizer slammed in by Giorgos Afroudakis. But Hungary shot ahead again with goals from Norbert Madaras and Kasas for a 10-7 lead. Giorgos Doskas, Greece’s top scorer in yesterday’s match with four goals, reduced the difference for the encounter’s final result, 10-8. Kasas, Hungary’s top scorer, also scored four goals. Greece opened its campaign in Belgrade with an 11-8 win over Germany and then thrashed Slovenia with a 19-6 score. In a repeat of the 2004 Olympics women’s final, Italy defeated Greece, this time with an 8-7 score. Despite the loss, Greece advanced to the next round, where it will confront Spain tomorrow. «Naturally, I’m very satisfied by my girls who challenged a team like Italy,» said the women’s team’s coach, Koulis Iosifidis. «The Italians are far more experienced than our young players and better prepared, so these details counted,» he added. The Italians led 4-1 but Greece fought back to level at 5-5. Italy reclaimed the lead with an 8-6 score. With just seconds to go, Kelina Kantzou narrowed for the final 8-7 result.