The most thankless position. The same one obtained in Sydney 21 years ago, the last time the Spanish men’s water polo team peeked into the semifinals of an Olympic tournament. They were about to fight for the gold, but Serbia, the mighty Serbia, ended up winning by a goal. They had the consolation of bronze, but there was waiting the fearsome Hungary, with its steel fangs and its enormous goalkeeper, Viktor Nagy, who even stopped them with a header. Spain crashed against the Hungarian wall in the second half and the team sank: they did not score a single goal in the last two quarters and the players tried each to make war on their own, with shooting selections not always successful, while that Hungarians grew up in the pool to become Olympic medalists.
The game had started very evenly and it stayed that way during the first two quarters. At halftime, Spain and Hungary left with a tie at five, the Hungarians more forceful, the Spanish more dominant. But something happened in the second half, especially the last quarter, so that the selection fell apart. Perhaps it was the psychological blow received against Serbia, perhaps exhaustion or anxiety, but Spain broke down and left the Hungarians free to control the game at will. Alberto Munárriz he summed it up bluntly at the end of the match: “We haven’t done well. We have needed to work more for our teammate and play as a team. It is what we did in the group stage and it is what, I don’t know if because of our nerves, we have been able to do less in these two games ».
Spain, current world and European runner-up, had an extraordinary preliminary phase. It was the only team that had won all its matches and also providing a fantastic image, based on solidarity and commitment. Coach, David Martin, valued that, except in this last meeting, Spain had offered a great image: «I am left hurt by the way in which we have asked for the bronze, each one waging the war on their own, but I do not think that we have to stain the trajectory of the team for running out of medal. I think we had a brutal first phase, in a very, very tough group, and the semi-final was very good ». Munárriz agreed with his coach: «The bottom line of this tournament has been five quarters, since the last quarter of the semifinal. We have lacked that ».
However, Spanish water polo says goodbye to Such with many signs of improvement compared to previous Games. For the first time in history, both teams (men and women) had reached the semifinals. The girls, who took the silver medal, did better than the boys, but both groups showed that there are more than enough wickers to try to storm the podiums in Paris in three years.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism