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Water polo champions gets chance to defend title

Summer Games 6 August 2023
Eduardo Campopiano (Italy) in water polo semi final action against Georgia

The battles for spots in the men’s water polo final at the Chengdu FISU World University Games were filled with action and excitement.

Italy faced Georgia in one semifinal and won 11-10, in down-to-the-wire, dramatic fashion.

The game didn’t start well for the favored Italians, who simply couldn’t score. It was Georgia in the lead 3-0 with just 35 seconds left in the first quarter, when Pietro Faraglia delivered Italy’s first goal and gave some life to his squad.

Italy returned in the second quarter with more energy and from that point on the two teams battled shot for shot until the very end.

In the last three minutes of the game, with the score already 11-10 for The Azzurri, no team could add to its total, instead piling up missed chances and turnovers.

Then, with only 15 seconds to play, two referees created some late drama because a misunderstanding over a possible mistaken exclusion.

Eventually, Georgia had the last decisive attack in a bid for victory, but failed to deliver. It was Italy who could start celebrating, although some tension between opposing players followed the final whistle.

It wasn’t the first meeting between the two teams at the Chengdu FISU Games, as they already faced off in the preliminary round, with Italy winning 13-9.

“We gained respect from the match before, but this was a completely different one. The most important thing is that we won,” said Stefano Guerrato, one of four returning players from Italy’s FISU championship team from Napoli 2019.

Bendeguz Ekler, on right, from Hungary defended by Benjamin Liechty in one semi final of men’s water polo

The quartet will now have a chance to defend their title.

The combination of experienced players and fresh energy from the youngsters so far seems to be a winner.

“Since the first moment we started preparing for the Games we managed to find this synergy between us,” said Julien Lanfranco, one of the youngest on the team at 23 years of age, who confirmed the chemistry between his teammates is great.

The ltalians didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, getting together only a week before the start of competition. That’s why the support from the older players has proven to be essential.

“The guys really helped us a lot. I mean to [those of] us with less experience. They offered help, gave advice. They were great to us,” admitted Lanfranco, an Italian Pegaso Telematic University student.

From day one, the Italian team hasn’t been hiding what motivates them.

“We came here to win a gold medal, obviously”, he confided.

They will have a tough assignment on Tuesday.

In the final, Italy will meet Hungary, which claimed an 11-10 victory over the United States in the other semifinal.

The duel was decided in the last minute of play, halting a furious comeback by Team USA, which was down 11-5 with just six minutes left. The Americans scored five goals in a row and also had a chance to equalize in the very last seconds but failed to do so.

In the women’s semifinals, China dominated Australia 20-6, while Italy also posted a lopsided win, defeating Japan 21-2.

Written by Ana Brenčić, FISU Young Reporter