Italy wins rematch with US in men’s Olympic water polo

Jul 28, 2021, 1:35 PM | Updated: Jul 29, 2021, 1:57 am
Italy's Pietro Figlioli celebrates after a score against the United States during a preliminary rou...

Italy's Pietro Figlioli celebrates after a score against the United States during a preliminary round men's water polo match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

              United States' Hannes Daube (5) shoots against Italy during a preliminary round men's water polo match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Italy's Pietro Figlioli celebrates after a score against the United States during a preliminary round men's water polo match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

TOKYO (AP) — Francesco Di Fulvio and Italy won the 2019 world championship in men’s water polo, establishing themselves as gold medal contenders for the Olympics. Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived.

A year after the Games were supposed to occur, Di Fulvio sees a wide-open competition in Tokyo.

“We are the same team. We do the same play, the same game,” he said. “But now, in Tokyo 2020, maybe, here can win, in my opinion, six, seven teams. They improve their game. We did the same. So I think there will be nice games.”

Italy played one of those nice games Thursday against the United States, rallying for a dramatic 12-11 victory. Di Fulvio scored five times as the Italians jumped over the Americans in Group A with five points after playing to a 6-6 draw against Greece on Tuesday.

Five years after Serbia won gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics as the reigning world champion, there is no superpower towering over the 12-country field in Tokyo. Just a ton of possibilities.

“I’ve never seen eight teams, nine teams strong that can win medals,” Italy coach Alessandro Campagna said. “So every match is a fight, every match.”

Campagna’s team is certainly among those medal contenders. Italy is seeking its first Olympic title since 1992 and No. 4 overall. It won silver in 2012 and bronze in Rio.

The U.S. finished 10th in Brazil, but it picked up some momentum with a runner-up finish in this year’s World League Super Final that included a 10-8 victory over Italy. It then won its first two games in the Olympics against Japan and South Africa.

Looking to strengthen its position for a possible berth in the quarterfinals, the U.S. scored the first four goals against Italy and led 11-9 with 5:22 left. But it couldn’t hold on.

“I think that we should win the game,” U.S. coach Dejan Udovicic said. “We got a few times to conclude the game and we didn’t and they punished us.”

Di Fulvio tied it at 11 with a penalty shot with 2:22 left, and Nicholas Presciutti got the game-winner when he converted a rebound with 1:40 to go. The U.S. had one last chance in the closing seconds, but turned it over.

“At the end we had the power, we had the concentration and we had the passion to wait for the right moment to go in front,” Campagna said.

The U.S. still appears to be in a strong position to advance, but it closes group play with games against Hungary on Saturday and Greece on Monday.

“I think once you get to the quarterfinals, I think anybody can beat anybody,” U.S. goaltender Drew Holland said. “There’s lots of good teams and it’s the Olympics and we’re getting kind of to the nitty-gritty point. But again, build through the group play stage and be playing our best water polo for the crossover.”

Hungary, Spain and Croatia also won on Thursday. Hungary routed winless South Africa 23-1, and Spain moved to 3-0 with a 16-4 victory over Kazakhstan. Loren Fatovic scored three goals to lead Croatia to a 13-8 win over Montenegro.

___

Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Jan Blachowicz, right, reacts after knocking out Luke Rockhold during the second round of th...
Associated Press

UFC 282: Suddenly vacant light heavyweight belt at stake

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev have been waiting for their shot at the light heavyweight title, and neither expected it to come Saturday. They were supposed to compete in the co-main event of UFC 282 until champion Jiri Prochazka pulled out last month of his fight with second-ranked Glover Teixeira because […]
1 day ago
FILE - Brittney Griner (15) runs up court during women's basketball gold medal game against Japan a...
Associated Press

Quote Box: Reaction to Brittney Griner’s release from Russia

Reactions after WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed from a Russian prison in a high-profile prisoner exchange. ___ “A strong woman has the strength of 10 men. If you think about all the women that have been advocating for BG for nine months and you add up our strength. This movement brought her home. Yes […]
1 day ago
Perci Ami, left, of Laveen, Ariz., and Patty Talahongva show support for Brittney Griner, Thursday,...
Associated Press

Brittney Griner’s release celebrated by basketball world

Brittney Griner’s loved ones and extended basketball family were ecstatic when news broke Thursday about her release from a Russian prison and that she was on her way back to the United States. It has been nearly 300 days since the WNBA star was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February, when customs officials said […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Youth hockey doctor faces more sex abuse charges

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (AP) — A suburban Detroit doctor already jailed on criminal sexual conduct charges connected to his work with youth hockey organizations has been charged in two additional cases. Zvi Levran, 66, is accused of sexually assaulting a 30-year-old man in 2020 in Levran’s Farmington Hills home and a 14-year-old boy in 2018 […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

New Mexico State Police release fatal campus shooting video

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — State Police have released surveillance footage of last month’s fatal shooting on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque that involved a basketball player from a rival school. Rooftop parking lot video released Tuesday by police showed that three people approached New Mexico State University junior forward Mike Peake, […]
1 day ago
Poland's Arkadiusz Milik, left, and France's Youssouf Fofana, right, fight for the ball during the ...
Associated Press

From serving pizzas, Fofona now delivering World Cup crosses

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Youssouf Fofana has gone from serving pizzas to delivering crosses in the World Cup. Dropped in 2015 at age 14 from Clairefontaine, France’s national training center, his future in soccer seemed at an end. So he went to work for a pizzeria. “That was the best way to earn money […]
1 day ago
Italy wins rematch with US in men’s Olympic water polo