Beijing 2008 Olympic silver medallists the United States got their pursuit of a place in the International Swimming Federation (FINA) Men’s Water Polo World League Super Final off to the best possible start as they beat Australia 8-6 on the opening day of the Intercontinental Tournament in Yokohama.
Despite fielding a relatively inexperienced side, the American outfit proved too strong in the end for Australia, who launched a late fightback which proved to be too little, too late.
Captain Tony Azevedo and Josh Samuels led the scoring charts for the US with two goals apiece, while Nikola Vavic, Alex Roelse, Luca Cupido and John Mann also got in the act to guide their side to victory.
John Cotterill’s double, along with successful efforts from Richard Campbell, Nathan Power, Jarrod Gilchrist and Joel Swift, wasn't quite enough for Australia, who had taken the lead early on before the Americans began to take charge.
“We haven't played games since last summer,” Azevedo said.
“We hope to get better at this tournament, get better at the Super Final and, hopefully, be 100 per cent prepared for Rio.
"We have a lot of young guys who are either in college or playing professionally, so it's hard for us to get competition.
“It's nice to come here and get some games under our belt, especially with a younger team - it's always important to learn how to play games, warm-up for games, and to learn about what happens in the last minute when you make a mistake.
“Those are all things you've got to learn.”
Japan gave the 4,000 strong crowd at the Yokohama International Swimming Pool something to cheer as they thrashed China 21-5, which included five goals from Atsushi Arai, in the final match to take place today.
Their triumph came after 2015 Super Final bronze medallists Brazil outclassed Kazakhstan with a resounding 19-7 win.
The Brazilian side, clearly aiming to send a message ahead of this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, raced into a 10-2 advantage at the halfway stage and managed to see out the victory despite taking their foot off the gas late on.
Tomorrow’s action sees Australia play Brazil, while hosts Japan go up against the United States and China entertain Kazakhstan.
The six teams are battling it out for four places in the Super Final in June in Huizhou, China.