Fukuoka, Japan July 29 Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, CA) scored a goal with 44 seconds to play from two-meters, while being double-teamed, to beat Croatia 10-9. Team USA finished in 7th place in the World Championships and qualified for next year¹s World Cup. Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA) and Bailey led Team USA in scoring with 3 goals each. Wolf Wigo (New York,NY)
added two goals in the victory, while Tony Azevedo (Long Beach,CA) and Jeff Powers (San Luis Obispo,CA) each had one. Spain topped Yugoslavia 4-2 to win
the gold medal. Russia finished in third by beating Italy 7-6.
"I am very satisfied with our performance of our players at the World Championships," said Head Coach Ratko Rudic. "Their effort and their behavior in and out of the pool was exemplary and we accomplished our objective of qualifying for the 2002 FINA World Cup."
"I honestly did not expect this result," added Rudic. "We have to remember that we are here with basically a new team at the beginning of the Olympic cycle. We played some very good games, particularly in games against Russia and Hungary, and in today's win over Croatia. In these game we were very disciplined. The other games were characterized by disorganization and undisciplined play. Our finish has given our players and our program a big stimulus. But we also realize that to arrive at the next level, we will have to work very hard. Now we will go back home, evaluate some younger players and re-evaluate our program. I am very optimistic about our future."
Croatia, who beat Team USA 11-6 in their last meeting in the World Championships, jumped to a 2-goal lead. The USA bounced back to tie the game, 3-3, at the end of the first quarter. Each team played tireless defense and countered relentlessly, exchanging goals the next three quarters. Croatia scored at 1:12 in the final period to tie the game 9-9. On the next possession, Bailey took a pass at hole, turned two defenders on him, and scored the game winner.
"We have three wins and five losses but we didn't come over here for results," said Acting Head Coach Rick Azevedo. "We came to establish a hard way to play. They had to learn a new way of playing. It's just sinking in now. Today was a good tactical game. We came out to match their intensity. We don't care that we got ejected 14 times. We did not back off. We took the ejections and stopped their six on five. We accomplished what we set out to do and that is to play the FINA Cup (next year)."
Azevedo led Team USA in scoring with 13 goals in the tournament, despite playing with a punctured eardrum. Beaubien followed in team scoring with 8 goals. Team Captain Wolf Wigo, who played with a viral infection in the tournament, scored 5 goals.
World Championship final standings:
Spain beat Yugoslavia 4-2 to take the gold medal, while Russia edged Italy 7-6 to take the bronze. Last year's gold medallist, Hungary beat Greece 8-5
to settle for 5th place. The Netherlands crushed Australia 8-3 to grab 9th place and Slovakia beat Kazakhstan 12-6 to take 11th. Germany, Japan, Brazil
and Canada all settled for consolation finishes.
Final Men's Standings
7. The USA
9. The Netherlands
None of the 2000 Olympic medallists won a medal at the World Championships, proving how tight the competition is. Italy became the first women¹s Olympic water polo team to defend its World Championship.
Final Women's Standings
9. The Netherlands
12. New Zealand