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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | WATER POLO

A Middling Effort for Sixth-Place U.S.

October 01, 2000|From Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — The U.S. finish says it all--not too good, not too bad, sixth place.

The American men's water polo team ended its Olympics with a 10-8 loss to Italy today and a lot of questions about its future.

Will 30-year-old Chris Humbert, the U.S. team's top scorer and low-post presence, be around for Athens in 2004? Can 30-year-old Dan Hackett, their goalie, hang on four more years to the next Olympics? And is there anyone else on the West Coast like young Tony Azevedo, who emerged as the U.S. team's next star?

The Americans (2-5-1) have four years to find those answers.

Hungary will face Russia for the gold medal later today. Yugoslavia defeated defending champion Spain, 8-3, for the bronze.

Croatia, a silver medalist four years ago, shook off its disappointing Olympics to defeat Australia, 10-8, and take seventh place.

Greece (1-5-2), automatically in the 2004 Games in Athens as the host nation, defeated Slovakia, 12-8, for its first win in Sydney and finished 10th.

Kazakhstan (3-3-2) scored three straight goals in the second half to beat the Netherlands, 6-4, and finish ninth.

The game against Italy was typical for the U.S.--fall in a hole, climb out late, then falter at the end.

The Americans trailed by four goals, then rallied for an 8-8 tie on Ryan Bailey's inside goal with 3:34 to go.

But Fabio Bencivenga scored his fifth goal with 1:51 remaining, and Francesco Postiglione sealed it with an outside blast less than a minute later.

The Italians (6-1-1) were without their flamboyant coach, Ratko Rudic, and the Calcaterra brothers, Alessandro and Roberto, two of their leading scorers. All were suspended by FINA, the sport's governing body, for arguing after Italy's 8-5 quarterfinal loss to Hungary.

It didn't look like a red-white-and-blue day when Wolf Wigo, the U.S. team's leading scorer, had a penalty shot blocked by reserve goalie Stefano Tempesti.

As they have all tournament, the American's rallied. Goals by Wigo, Gavin Arroyo and Bailey tied it up and gave hopes for a second straight victory.

But the Italian goals closed a tournament most Americans would like to forget.

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