- 12 Aug 1948
- London 1948
Water Polo - Italy Team
In the Water Polo tournament, Italy entered for the first time but not as novices. Much had changed in the sport since the 1936 Games, where Hungary and Germany had been the dominant nations. This time, there was no German involvement and Hungary's star had waned. At the previous year's European Championships, Italy had won ahead of Sweden and Belgium, with Hungary not picking up a medal.
The Hungarians were keen to make amends and reassert themselves; the Italians similarly focused on continuing their run of success. It was clear that the key contest would be between these two countries but the decisive match took place not, as one might have expected, at the end, but in the second round.
The rules of the tournament, which was based on a series of mini-leagues, said countries would only play each other once. If they were drawn to play a second match, the previous score would just be carried forward – so this early game between the two favourites was clearly going to be vital.
It was, predictably, close. Both sides threw everything into the match, although reports suggest that in a tournament marked by rough play and fraying tempers, this was one of the calmer encounters. Italy led 4-3 at the very end when Hungary was awarded a penalty throw. Just as the Hungarian player prepared to throw, the ball slipped from his grasp and tumbled into the water. The chance was lost, and Hungary had lost.
Italy won all eight of their matches, culminating in victories over Belgium and then the Netherlands in the final group. Hungary left for home with silver – determined to plot their return to the top four years later.