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Team GB women denied again by Italy

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9th August 2012

The British women’s water polo team brought their Olympic adventure to a close with defeat to Italy but left the London 2012 Water Polo Arena with their heads held high.

The European champions had too much for the Brits when they met in the group stage in London and so it proved again as Italy secured an 11-7 victory.

I think we have a solid base to go on - it's time for British water polo to rise.

Fiona McCann and Beckie Kershaw both struck twice for Team GB but Italy’s star player Tania di Mario was in scintillating form as she bagged four, including two penalties, to secure seventh place in the tournament.

And while the result means the Brits finish eighth after a winless first appearance at the Olympic Games, head coach Szilveszter Fekete insisted their eye-catching performances in London bode well for their chances over the next four years.

"We aimed to play even matches with the others even though we were regarded the underdogs without a chance," said Fekete. "I think we managed to stay close to such powerhouses as Russia, Italy and Spain.

"It's interesting to see Spain in the final, while we finished bottom.

"I think we have a solid base to go on. It's time for British water polo to rise. I picked 13 players from a 20-member squad, but for the next Olympic cycle we will have more new faces coming from the juniors.

"We will have 30 good players to choose from, and I don't think most other countries have a wider pool."

Having lost out by just two goals in their last two matches, the Brits were determined to finish their Games on a high and raced to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter.

Kershaw drew first blood with a power shot off the bar but Fiona McCann and Fran Clayton added two more goals after di Mario’s penalty had equalized

But an unstoppable backhand shot as the first quarter came to a close handed the Italians the initiative as they wrenched control over the match.

Italian goalkeeper Elena Gigli enjoyed a standout second quarter, securing a clean sheet as the rest of her team went on the offensive, equalizing then pulling three goals clear to establish a 6-3 lead at half-time.

The Brits tried to stage a comeback in the third quarter but each time they did, the Italians responded.

McCann bagged her second as her shot cannoned off the post and bobbled over the line off Gigli’s back but an outside shot and a bounce shot from 5m put the Italians further in front at 8-4.

Alex Rutlidge responded with a bounce shot of her own but once again the Italians had an answer, earning a penalty which was dispatched by di Mario.

The Brits threw everything into the final quarter, Ciara Gisbon-Byrne pulling one back with an outside shot before Clayton scored her second – her shot sneaking over after Gigli initially got a hand to it.

But as Team GB pushed to reduce the deficit in the final two minutes, Italy finished off the match, scoring an outside shot and a goal on the counter to secure the win.

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