Playing for the 16th time in the oldest team sport at the Olympics, Greece improved to 6-0-1 with its fifth straight win since a 6-6 draw against Italy during group play. It also beat Hungary 10-9 in its first game in Tokyo on July 25.
Greece’s previous best finish was fourth in 2004. Next up is the winner of the Spain-Serbia semifinal.
“I think that we cannot stop here,” Greece coach Theodoros Vlachos said. “We have to fight like crazy in the final. We want to hear our anthem at the end.”
Krisztian Manhercz scored two goals for Hungary, and Viktor Nagy made eight saves. Hungary shot 22% (6 for 27) in its first loss since the opener against Greece.
Hungary is the winningest program in men’s water polo with nine golds, but it hasn’t won a medal since its run of three straight Olympic titles from 2000 to 2008. It finished fifth in London and Rio de Janeiro.
“To be honest, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that Greece can beat us twice during one tournament,” Hungary captain Denes Varga said.
“I thought that we made a step forward and were able to make the difference, but they were impeccable, hands down. I wish them to win the final.”
The game was tied at 5 after Manhercz scored with 6:32 left. But Ioannis Fountoulis responded for Greece and Angelos Vlachopoulos’ power-play goal made it 7-5 with 5:07 remaining.
Dimitrios Skoumpakis helped close it out with a terrific shot from long range, making it 9-6 and kickstarting the celebration in Greece’s corner of the pool.
“I think Hungary has some legends inside its roster. We had, I think, more passion, more will to win,” Zerdevas said. “I think that games don’t have tactics, they have heart, and I think that today we were better. It was our day.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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