Men's Water Polo: Australia Stays Alive, US Bows Out

Rhys Howden and John Cotterill each scored three goals, and Australia stayed alive in the men's Olympic water polo tournament with a 12-7 victory over Greece in their final group game on Sunday.

The United States, already eliminated from quarterfinal contention, beat Italy 10-7 in its final game in Rio de Janeiro. Captain Tony Azevedo, goaltender Merrill Moses and defender Jesse Smith were pulled with nine seconds left and waved to their friends and family in the stands in what might have been the final Olympic appearance for the American mainstays.

Australia bounced back nicely from its 10-8 loss to Serbia on Friday, but it will need some help to advance to the next round. A loss by Serbia to Japan or a win by two goals or more for Brazil against Hungary on Sunday night would put the Aussie Sharks in the quarterfinals.

"I'm happy because we've done our job," Australia coach Elvis Fatovic said. "Really, it's not a great situation when you have to wait for someone else to help you, but this tournament in water polo, so many surprises, so hopefully one more."

Howden and Cotterill powered Australia to its highest scoring game of the tournament. It also was the most goals allowed by Greece, which had already secured a spot in the quarterfinals beginning Tuesday at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.

"I'm very proud of the boys today," Howden said. "We came out and gave it everything we had."

Moses, a three-time Olympian who turned 39 on Saturday, said it was his last game, but Smith and Azevedo were non-committal about their futures. Azevedo scored twice against Italy and finished with five goals in his fifth Olympics, a record for USA Water Polo.

"Right now I'm just pretty depressed," said Azevedo, who turns 35 in November. "I'm going to take off tomorrow, go home, spend all day at the beach first and then go home, and finish my professional career here in Brazil, I'll be back in two weeks, and then I'll decide what I'm going to do in the future."

Smith, a four-time Olympian, would only say it was the last game of this tournament, but sounded as if he felt this was it.

"I'm really glad we went out on a win," the 33-year-old Smith said. "I think it's great for the young guys to go on a win so that I think that they're going to have a great chance in 2020."

Azevedo, Moses and Smith helped the U.S. win silver in Beijing, but the team finished eighth in London in 2012 and then flopped in Rio. It lost three of its first four games to lose out on any chance of matching its performance from four years ago.

But the Americans managed to put together a strong finish, despite playing without Alex Roelse, Alex Bowen and assistant coach Jack Kocur due to a trio of suspensions coming out of Friday's 8-5 loss to Montenegro. Moses made six saves while playing most of the second half in relief of McQuin Baron, the likely starter for Tokyo.

"It's unfortunate how the tournament ended up," Moses said. "But I know that we gave it our all and I look forward to the bright future of this young team."

Also Sunday, Spain and Montenegro played to a 9-9 draw, and France beat Croatia 9-8 for its first victory of the Olympics. Spain won Group B with seven points.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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