The men’s team returns to an Olympic semifinal 21 years later after beating the USA at the crossroads
The ‘warriors’ of Miki Oca will play this Thursday the pass to the final against Hungary (12.50 hours)
All the faith that existed in the two water polo teams that came to Tokyo has been more than justified. The men’s team they beat the US on Wednesday in a demanding quarter-final from start to finish (8-12) and made their way to the semi-finals and the fight for the medals just as the women’s team did 24 hours earlier.
Never before have the two teams managed to overcome the quarterfinal crossing as has happened in Tokyo, which shows that the water polo in Spain is experiencing a moment of splendor. For the boys, current runners-up in the world and in Europe, it is a milestone. In the last four editions of the Games they had stayed on the border of the quarterfinals. It had been 21 years since he crossed that border to fight for the podium. Specifically, since Sydney-2000, where a legend of Spanish sports such as Manel Estiarte.
For the warriors of Miki Oca, also runners-up in the world and current European champions, the precedent is much closer. In River fell in quarters, but in London-2012, where women’s water polo was premiered, the silver medal was hung against the odds. Now you both want more.
The men’s team will play their place in the final this Friday against Serbia while Hungary will be the rival of the women’s team this Thursday (12.50 hours)
Know how to suffer
“Now we can dream. Serbia is an Olympic champion, but I think we have to give a lot of value to what we have done. 21 years have passed since the last Olympic semifinals, some of our players were not even born ”, he valued David Martin, a speech shared with one of the national team’s referents, the goalkeeper Dani López Pinedo who, with 60% of stops compared to the US, had a decisive weight in the classification. “We have suffered against the US as it is not written, but we have passed the barrier of rooms that was the difficult thing and now we are going to dream. Let’s see if we get a good game, ”said the 41-year-old veteran goalkeeper.
The victory in the quarterfinals against the US team was much more complicated than expected. But Spain showed the same defensive solidity and attacking versatility as in the ‘group of death’, from which they emerged with a full five wins after beating the three Balkan teams (Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia).
“I am very proud of the players, they have known how to suffer,” he admitted. Martin, who has completed a block of enormous solvency, solid in defense, with a lot of mobility in attack and in which all men can contribute. The 10-player base of the Atlètic Barceloneta helps in the cohesion of the group, which maintains a pool of veterans, such as López Pinedo, Felipe Perrone or Blai Mallarach, but it has completed a rebuilding process with enormous talents such as Munarriz, Granados or Tahull.
“It has not been our most brilliant game, but the quarterfinal never is, the pressure is very great, it is the most difficult to play. We have taken it forward, “explained the coach, happy to be able to finally cross the quarterfinal barrier:” Now let it be what God wants. “
Hungary, penultimate gate
The women’s water polo team, meanwhile, will live their D-day against Hungary this Thursday, with the dream of being in the medals again, just as they have done in two of the last three international competitions: gold in the 2020 European Championship , gold in the 2019 World Cup.
Anni Espar, One of the group’s referents, already in its third Games, values the duel against the Hungarian team, one of the European powers, as complicated. “We are going to try to do things well in defense, which is what failed us in the game that we lost against the Netherlands in the group stage. If we do things well, we will have a lot of gains,” explained the player of the Mataró. “I believe that the fact of being a group, being united, the day to day as a team, that gives a lot of strength. We have a very united team, like a family, and that gives us a plus.”
“They are an Olympic semifinals and there is no easy game. You have to leave the same because it will be a war,” remarks the goalkeeper Laura Ester, who was also in London and Rio. “Every time we jump into the water we give our best, we empty ourselves inside and we will give everything to fight for victory.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.