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(E) USA Edges Croatia in Inagural Fina Water Polo World League
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/1/2002 | Sports | Unrated
(E) USA Edges Croatia in Inagural Fina Water Polo World League

USA Edges Croatia, 15-13, in World League Debut

Tony Azevedo Cuts Loose for Seven Goals in Front of Home Crowd

Los Alamitos, Calif., June 28, 2002—Team USA never trailed in its FINA World League debut against Croatia on Friday night (June 28), outlasting its European visitors, 15-13. Tony Azevedo, who played high school water polo just a few miles from the USA Water Polo National Training Center at Long Beach Wilson High School, scored seven goals much to the delight of the 1250 gathered spectators.

The U.S. got its first-ever World League goal from an unlikely source. Layne Beaubien, who is one of the team’s best defenders, scored from the point with 7:25 on the clock in the first period to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Azevedo got started early, scoring two first quarter goals as the U.S. led, 5-2, at the end of the first.

 An early goal by Azevedo in the second quarter gave the U.S. its biggest lead of the game at 6-2. But Croatia quickly narrowed the margin to three on a natural goal by Danijel Premus with 7:47 to play in the half. Holeman Ryan Bailey, who played professionally last season in Croatia, half-submerged, managed to find the net on a turnaround from set to give the U.S. a 7-4 lead with 5:11 to go. For Croatia, it was a hard luck half, with six shots nailing going bar-out.

 Halfway through the third quarter, Wolf Wigo was called for a penalty inside four meters. Croatian captain Ratko Stritof converted the ensuing shot to bring his team to within two at 8-6. After another Croatian stop, Teo Dogas ricocheted a shot off of USA goalkeeper Merrill Moses to close the gap to 8-7 with 4:06 to go in the quarter. But that was as close as the game would get.

 Azevedo’s fifth goal of the game, an extra-man score from outside with 3:11 to play, brought roars from the crowd and an uproar from the Croatian bench that resulted in a yellow card for coach Veselin Duho. Dan Klatt scored two goals in the final two minutes of the quarter, both on lob passes from the perimeter to give the U.S. an 11-8 lead. However, with six seconds remaining, Moses was ejected on a skirmish in front of the goal, and Tomislav Primorac scored past the U.S. two-goalkeeper defense of Klatt and Wolf Wigo.

 To start the fourth quarter, Azevedo scored his sixth goal and assisted on one by Bailey to push the U.S. out to a 13-9 lead. But Croatia wasn’t going quietly. Back-to-back goals by the Croatians made the score 13-11 with 5:47 remaining. Azevedo’s seventh goal of the game gave the U.S. a 14-11 lead at the 3:24 mark, but a score by Stritof on Croatia’s next possession kept it close.

 But Croatia wasn’t able to recover as the U.S. went on to win, 15-13. Azevedo’s seven goals were the most scored by a single player against Croatia since 1993.

 Team USA and Croatia will go at it again on Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. at the USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center in Los Alamitos.  

 Team USA
















Individual Scoring

Team USA:

Azevedo 7, Klatt 2, Bailey 2, Powers 2, Wigo 1, Beaubien 1


Primorac 2, Premus 2, Dogas 2, Zubcic 2, Stritof 2, Vranjes 1, Komandine 1, Hinic 1

Man Advantage Scoring

Team USA:

8 for 11


8 for 15

  Goal Saves

Team USA:

Moses 8


Percinic 6

 Attendance: 1250

 Notable Quotes:

Ratko Rudic (USA Head Coach)

“The entire game revolved around two-meter play. We expected this kind of game with Croatia. But when they collapsed on Bailey, we were able to score from outside.”
“Having played 20 games against the World All-Stars last month really helped us get ready for this game. Without those games, we lose to Croatia tonight.”

 Merrill Moses (USA Goalkeeper)

“Ratko told us to play like it was an even game all night to keep up our intensity, and that’s exactly what we did.”
“We relaxed a bit after we got that four-goal lead, but we fought hard to keep ahead.”
“We played an all-around good game. This team is very close, both in and out of the pool.”

 Tony Azevedo (USA Driver)

“It was great to come out and have the kind of game I did in front of the home crowd.”

 Veselin Duho (Croatian Head Coach)

“We got off to a bad start and it killed us. But this is just 60-70% of our ability. Will be better next game. We will win.”

 Igor Hinic (Croatian Center)

“The American players are stronger than we are right now. But this is not a tragedy for us. They have had more time to prepare for these matches.” 

Teo Dogas (Croatian Driver)

“We had a big break after championships last month, and I swim hard during this break. But we have to continue to improve. We’ll start to see the results, maybe in next match against USA or back home in Dubrovnik.”


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