USA WINS WORLD CUP WATER POLO! -- June 1, 1997
ATHENS, Greece - The United States shocked a sold out crowd, of over 10,000, at the Greek Olympic Swimming Stadium by defeating host country Greece, 8-5, to capture the gold medal at the X FINA World Cup.
The victory capped an improbable run which started with a 10-7 win over Spain, the defending Olympic gold medalists. The United States then knocked off Italy, the 1996 Olympic bronze medalists 7-6, and then defeated Greece in a shoot-out to complete round robin play.
In the semi-finals, the United States eliminated a powerful Russian team in overtime, 9-8, to set up a rematch with Greece, which had crushed Hungary 8-4, in the other semi-final.
The hometown, standing room-only crowd loudly booed the United States during the introductions, saving their biggest boos for American superstar Chris Humbert, who plays professionally in Greece. Humbert responded with a goal in the first 35 seconds of the game and two more in the first period as the United States unrattled Greek goalie, Gerasimus Voltyrakis, for a 3-0 first quarter lead. When Brad Schumacher, a 1996 Double Olympic Gold medalist in swimming, scored two minutes into the third quarter, for a 5-0 USA lead, the crowd was momentarily silenced. At this point the Greeks made a comeback to close the USA lead to 6-4, but goals by Jeremy Laster and another by Schumacher sealed the victory.
Chris Humbert scored a total of 15 goals in the tournament and was named tournament MVP. For their victory, each American player will receive $5,000 from the USOC.
This victory marks a spectacular coaching debut for USA head coach John Vargas, who took over for Rich Corso (the 1996 Olympic head coach). The win for the United States ended a 6-year drought in major international competitions. (ie. Olympics, World Championships, World Cup).