While the women's water polo tournament is about to enter the semifinal stage at London 2012, the men close round-robin play on Monday evening. After the jump, I'll take a look at who's still alive in the hunt for Olympic gold.
Note: FINA awards 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw.
Current Standings: 1. Croatia, 2. Spain, 3. Italy, 4. Greece, 5. Australia, 6. Kazakhstan (eliminated)
World League champions Croatia (8 points) will undoubtedly defeat Kazakhstan (0 points) (5 a.m. ET) to secure the group's top seed in the quarterfinals. Saturday's 11-9 win for Spain (6 points) over Greece (3 points) went a long way toward deciding the rest of the group's positions, but not nearly as far as Monday's contest between the Spanish and 2011 World Champion Italy (5 points) (2:40 p.m. ET). A draw would give Spain the No. 2 seed, while the Italians would need to take both points to rise from third. The Greeks, meanwhile, must earn a point in their contest against Australia (2 points) to secure the final quarterfinal place (6:20 a.m. ET). An Aussie win would see them claim position A4 instead.
Projected Standings: 1. Croatia (10 pts.), 2. Spain (7 pts.), 3. Italy (6 pts.), 4. Greece (5 pts.), 5. Australia (2 pts.), 6. Kazakhstan (0 pts.)
Current Standings: 1. Serbia, 2. USA, 3. Montenegro, 4. Hungary, 5. Romania (eliminated), 6. Great Britain (eliminated)
Seeding is the only thing left to be decided in Group B. World runner-up Serbia (7 points) will almost certainly finish first, thanks to a Saturday win over the United States (6 points). All the Serbs need is a point against eliminated Romania (2 points) (9:10 a.m. ET). As for the Americans, who are in search of their first water polo gold in 108 years, they close the preliminary round against the team that's won the last three titles, Hungary (4 points) (10:30 a.m. ET). A second consecutive loss could see the Americans fall down to position B3 or B4. That's because Hungary would pick up the head-to-head edge, and Montenegro (5 points) has a great shot to rise up, as they play eliminated Great Britain (0 points) to wrap up the group's schedule (1:20 p.m. ET),
Projected Standings: 1. Serbia (9 pts.), 2. USA (7 pts.), 3. Montenegro (7 pts.), 4. Hungary (5 pts.), 5. Romania (2 pts.), 6. Great Britain (0 pts.)
Those projected standings result in a bracket that looks like this...
(A1) Croatia vs. (B4) Hungary
(B2) USA vs. (A3) Italy
(A2) Spain vs. (B3) Montenegro
(B1) Serbia vs (A4) Greece
The two group winners in this scenario, Croatia and Serbia, would appear to be overwhelming favorites, with Spain and the United States in best position to earn bronze. Still, if the Spanish were to somehow get past a strong Serbian team, they would relish a second shot against Croatia -- 8-7 winners in the teams' preliminary matchup -- in a hypothetical final.
UPDATE: In Group A, Australia topped Greece to qualify for the quarterfinals, while Italy defeated Spain to finish in second place. Meanwhile, Croatia finished with five wins out of five matches. Over in Group B, the U.S. fell to fourth after Hungary picked up an easy win over them, a result that put the Hungarians in third place, just behind Serbia and Montenegro.
Here's the quarterfinal lineup for Wednesday.
(A1) Croatia vs. (B4)
Hungary USA, 3 p.m. ET
USA Montenegro vs. (A3) Italy Spain, 9:30 a.m. ET
Spain Italy vs. (B3) Montenegro Hungary, 1:40 p.m. ET
(B1) Serbia vs (A4)
Greece Australia, 10:50 a.m. ET
Friday's semifinals are scheduled for 10:40 a.m. and 2:50 p.m. ET, with consolation semifinals slated for 9:20 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET. Sunday sees a pair of consolation finals at 5:20 and 6:40 a.m. ET; the Bronze Medal Game at 9:30 a.m. ET; and the Gold Medal Match at 10:50 a.m. ET.
Given how the United States' once promising campaign is now in tatters, it's quite possible that three Balkan teams end up on the medal stand, with Croatia and Serbia clear favorites for places in the gold medal game and Montenegro a solid bet for bronze (provided they get by Spain in the quarters), though the Italy-Hungary winner will have a say.
Who are your picks for the medals?
For more expert water polo coverage, visit SB Nation's The Skip Shot, edited by friend of the blog Jeremy Mauss.
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