Russia up next for U.S. men

Updated: August 19, 2004, 12:43 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Defending Olympic champion Hungary handed the United States its first loss in water polo preliminaries Thursday, beating the Americans 7-5.

Tamas Varga scored his second goal on extra-man play to seal the match with 1:27 left. The Hungarians then blocked shots by Layne Beaubien and Wolf Wigo to thwart a furious American comeback attempt in the last minute.

"We were equal physically,'' Wigo said. "The main difference was the 6-on-5s, when they really rushed us. The rest of the time we matched them.''

The Hungarians led 5-4 at halftime and Gergely Kiss scored with 17 seconds left in the third quarter for a two-goal cushion.

Jesse Smith cut the lead to 6-5 with less than five minutes to play, and Brandon Brooks made two saves in goal to keep the Americans close before the Hungarians finally closed it out.

Hungary, which has also beaten Serbia-Montenegro and Croatia, improves to 3-0 with two games left in round-robin play.

The Americans beat Croatia and Kazakhstan and face Russia on Saturday, with Serbia-Montenegro set for Monday.

Wigo said the U.S. squad remained a medal contender, despite a difficult bracket featuring three of the strongest water polo nations.

"Definitely. These are the best teams in the world in our bracket and we're playing right with them,'' Wigo said. "We beat one of them, we lost to one of them in a close game. We've got two more and we'll see how we go, but it looks good.''

Earlier, Aleksandar Sapic scored three goals in Serbia-Montenegro's 9-5 victory over Kazakhstan.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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