Water Polo Men Rio 2016 Round 4 Predictions
HUNGARY v JAPAN (HUN +6)
Japan’s unorthodox style of play and non-stop swimming against the bigger teams has almost paid off on a number of occasions. They led at all breaks v Greece only to come undone on counter in the last minute and against Australia went to an early lead to rattle the Australian’s only to be outplayed by some smart coaching tactics and brilliant finishing by players such as Aaron Younger and Joe Kayes. This is such an important match for the Hungarians and given their skill, speed and shot strength along with the smarts of coach Tibor Benedek who has had the benefit of studying the Japanese over the last 3 games and how Brazil pulled them apart, I do think Hungary will be too strong.
The Hungarians will use this to show off some of their skills (in a good way).
ITALY v CROATIA (DRAW)
What an exciting match-up! The Italians have shown individual brilliance along with beautiful ‘fluidity’ in their skills, tactics and patience. This young team has already outperformed with victories over Spain, France and then Montenegro and a victory here will cement their position as top of Group B. Croatia had a nervous start v USA winning by 2 but followed that with a clinical performance against Montenegro. The game against Spain however was another story. Gaby Hernandez prepared his Spanish team perfectly against Croatia and claimed the biggest victory of his coaching career to date with a comprehensive 9-4 victory. Croatia looked unsettled and outplayed tactically and Italy have a similar style to the Spanish – fast, fluid and intense in defence. The Croatians rely a bit too heavily on their skills and outside shots and look like they’ve come to Rio a little less tactically polished than Italy. Italy will be more relaxed in a confident way whereas Croatia will be under pressure to squeeze points out of this game.
USA v MONTENEGRO (MNE+1)
The last Group B quarter final berth looks like it will be a battle between these two sides and this game will be as fierce as any. While USA has only picked up points against France, their 1 goals loss v Spain was solid. They know what they’ll have to do here and Udovicic will be very aware of the tactics required to conquer Montenegro. USA have to do a lot more in centre-forward to be a real threat though and I think the well roundedness, maturity and strength of the more experience Montenegrins should hand them a victory.
GREECE v BRAZIL (GRE +1)
My heart says Brazil and my head says Greece. Greece have performed consistently good water polo as a team. Brazil upset World Champions Serbia and are no doubt on a high from their 3 from 3 victories and top of Group A however I think the Greeks will be able to get over them tonight. They’ll be busy keeping Felipe Perrone out of the game (almost impossible) along with Vrlic, Delgado and Soro but their strength will be persistent die-hard defence and patience and maturity in extra man opportunities.
Brazil has been an absolute fairy-tail and we do hope it continues for the Rio Olympics, for the sport of water polo and for the underdogs. This team has come together over the last 4 years and already has a Fina World League Bronze Medal to their name so its not completely out of the question to imagine them fighting for the medals next week especially on their amazing form. Superior fitness and plain old intelligent tactics (along with some individual brilliance from the likes of Perrone) have all combined to bring this dream alive.
SPAIN v FRANCE (ESP+3)
Left hander Gonzalo Echenique was unstoppable with a 4 goal haul v Croatia and will go into this game with confidence along with his team who played a perfect game to take out Croatia 9-4. No doubt he will be heavily marked by the strong Croatian defence but his real test here will be if he can recognise that and pivot his game to focus on assists whilst still taking his opportunities. Guillemo Molinar continues to deliver when it counts for Spain and he shouldn’t have too much of a problem leading his team to victory v France.
AUSTRALIA v SERBIA (AUS+1)
Many won’t agree with this prediction but in the last 3 years, Australia has consistently matched up well v Serbia and was the closest to them in Kazan 2015 when they went down by 1 to an inform and unstoppable Serbia. Serbia have been the suprise here in Rio on the downside. Whilst they have come back when required, they still haven’t won a game including THAT game v Brazil. They in a pressure situation which they haven’t necessarily experience before and the Aussies will be throwing everything at them to book that quarter final spot.
The Aussies played brilliantly to secure a draw v Hungary and although not pretty against Japan, they showed composure and discipline to dispose of Japan who hasn’t been the easiest to take care of here in Rio. The Aussies love a big game and know the Serbians very well with coach Fatovic experienced in how to beat them. Younger, Coterill, Kayes, Campbell, Swift; all are looking in form and will deliver and AJ Roach’s tenacity will shine through in this game too. Everything is on the line in this game and will be played like a Grand Final for both of these teams.
Thomas Whalan – Water Polo by the Sea. Disclaimer: I have been right in some occasions and wrong in many others and am happy to continue to be as the Olympics is brilliantly difficult to predict and that makes it all the more exciting!
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