Monday, July 30, 2012

Water Polo

First Olympic Year:
1900 for men and 2000 for women. What's a century difference?

So like all sports, Water Polo was invented to separate the men from the boys. There were a bunch of fairs and festivals around 1870 where towns wanted to show off what they could do.1 Eventually rules were penned by a guy in a bathhouse.2 It was originally thought of as water rugby and became water polo because English speakers don't like other languages and ball in Balti sounds like Polo.3

The first games were a little more brutal then they are now. It doesn't seem like there were any rules. A player could wrestle, push, or drown people to get a ball. Could you imagine just getting to the ball and some giant dude just puts your head under the water.

By the 1880s, they got rid of all the fun things. I mean if I can't attempt to murder some one in a game what is the point? The rules structured a game that passing, swimming and scoring. Players could still tackle on another, but only if he had the ball. The game kept evolving through 1900 where Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Hungary, and Italy created competitive teams.

In the US the game was a little different. It was rougher, it had a ball you could take underwater that created a game where players would dive underwater. As a result, no European teams came to compete in the 1904 Olympics. After that the US decided to conform to the rest of the world. One can tell this is the US before the second World War.

It took until 1928 for players to start throwing the ball to one another without the ball hitting the water. Before the Hungarian coach suggested such a tactic they would let the ball drop and then pick it up out of the water. I am unsure why it took so long to decide, to catch the ball, it is mind bending.

First Competition:
In 1900 Great Britain had about a 20 year head start. This allowed them to win by an average of almost 9 goals.

The games were in Paris who sent 4 teams. Belgium and Germany rounded out the 7 teams. Belgium won the silver, and two French teams won the bronze. One of the teams, Libellule de Paris, participated in one game, in which they lost, and got a Bronze Medal. No wonder they have a reputation of surrendering in wars.4

Dominant Countries:
Hungary has won the last 3 Gold medals in the Summer Olympiad and are the historical best Water Poloers.5 Serbia and Russia seem to have strong teams every year. Serbia of course was formerly of Yugoslavia and in 04 they had players from Montenegro as well. They got the Bronze last Olympics.

The US Women have medaled in all three Olympic competitions. They have not won the Gold. Greece won the 2011 Worlds with China in second and Russia in third. There is not enough history to show dominance.

Basic Concept:
Don't drown. That is probably the first key.

Pools can vary from 20m x 10m to 30m x 20m. The goals are 3m wide and 90cm tall.6 There is a 5m line and a 2m line.7 If there is a foul out side the 5m line you can shoot right away. If inside you cannot shoot but you do have a free pass that cannot be intercepted.

There are 6 field players and 1 goalie that cannot go past the half line. The goalies wear red caps and are the only player in the pool who can touch the ball with both hands. The goalie also gets a decent amount of assists as a quick outlet can lead to a breakaway for his team. He can also punch the ball, but it is not recommended. The rest of the team must have open hands when contacting the ball and must keep one hand in the water.

The best way to get goals is to pass the ball around to move the defense to get an open shot. There is usually a guy around the 2m line that can get the ball and quickly shoot before the goalie can react.

After a major foul the player must excuse himself for 20 seconds. It is a pretty short power play for the offensive team. It takes 3 major fouls to foul out. The team does get to substitute after the 20 second penalty.

There is a 30 second shot clock that starts once a team gains possession of the ball. Each team gets 2 1-minute time outs and a single time out if the game goes into overtime.

There are all sorts of different formations and types of movement for offense in water polo.8 Power plays will look very similar to a hockey power play. One popular formation will be a 4-2. This means 4 players will be very near the 2m line and two guys around the 5m line. This spreads the defense out and the defense has to go into a zone type look. The 2 most outside guys being most important in passing and shooting. Moving the goalie from side to side is the most important factor.

As you can see O2 and O3 are going to be likely double teamed.9 The defense will want to keep the ball out of their hands and they will be able to have a point blank shot with not much more than an alley oop to put it in the net.10

Counter attacks are pretty exciting. After the goalie comes up with a save he can hit a streaking player down on the other end. The issue seems to be that mugging the guy before the 5m line only results in a minor or major foul without a penalty shot.

How is the Outlook for the US?
For the men it looks pretty good. The team has been training together for a full year rather than play for European club teams where they could make a pretty good living. One guy on the team was making a 6 figure salary. With a good tournament they can very well Medal. I don't think they will be able to pull out a Gold.

The Women are FAVORITES! They have a very good shot to come out with a Gold at these Olympics. If you want a unconventional sport to root for the US Water Polo is it!

Betting Odds:
Serbia are the overwhelming favorites at 7/5. Hungary is at 13/5 and Croatia is at 9/2. I gotta keep this Murican and like the US at 12/1.

The American lasses are favorites at 7/4. The ladies from down under are 3/1 and Russia is 9/2. China performed well in Beijing and I'll pick them as the best odds at 11/2.

What to Look For:
Filip Filipović is the reigning player of the year. He likes to scream.

Alexandra Asimaki is the reigning women's player of the year. She looks pretty good, but someone decided this was a good look for her.

1Surprise! It was the Brits who invented the game, really William Wilson a Scot.
2It was called the Arlington Baths Club. I think it was a Bathhouse, but it had a pool and a couple baths. I am going to say that Water Polo was created by Gays. The sport is great exercise for the core.
3The word was “pulu”. I think the name has really held the sport back. Water rugby probably would have made the sport more popular. That or if you didn't have to tread water for an hour.
4You can read the official report. I couldn't read it, I am an ignorant American who cannot read French.
5Need more reasons to hate Soviet Russia? Read about the Blood in the Water match. In short a Soviet punched a Hungarian guy in the face and his first thought was that he wouldn't be able to play in the Gold Medal match. That man, Ervin Zador, later was one of Mark Spitz swim coaches. There is a documentary that covers it called “Freedom's Fury”. It's narrated by Spitz.
6Just about a yard high and 3 yards wide.
7You will see a Green/Yellow line for the 5 meter line. You will see a Red line for the 2 Meter. They are using lights for the first time in the Olympics, it's pretty cool.
8Want to read all about them, I read some from here. #11 has offense, #12 defense.
9If these guys get the ball they can also implement a wrap shot.
10 This guy has a boring voice but explains the strategy in simple easy to understand terms. He also has this for 6 on 6 offense.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome summary of Water Polo. I'm ready for battle.