World water polo, Setterosa in the semifinals, defeated the USA

World water polo, Setterosa in the semifinals, defeated the USA

FROM THE SENT TO FUKUOKA. Italy has taken a liking to scramble the USA and it also does it in the water polo pool where Setterosa puts an impossible result in the water: 8-7 against the winners of the last four world titles, the last 3 Olympic gold medals.

Italy is in the semifinals and one could not predict, perhaps not even hope because they are the champions of every title in the last 20 years and the Azzurri found themselves in front of the quarterfinals due to a bad, sad, defeat against Greece: one of those matches that leave marks and scratches because they take you to the wrong side of the draw which is a bit like the dead end of life, once you take it the chances of not crashing are minimal and so it was. Ridiculous success percentages, bets on the number of goals that the owners of multiple successes could place against a doomed team. Even for tried, wounded, incapable of the reaction that is needed to overturn the order of things. But no. The girls led by Carlo Silipo sign the feat going far beyond the heart-brain combination, they are superlative because they defend themselves, to the limit, they take the blows they have to, they wait, they undermine the security of others and there in that orderly trench they grow, they find the goals they need to breathe, they place themselves. They handle every bump.

To do this they rely on the skill and grace day of goalkeeper Caterina Bianchelli, later elected best player. You give the figure of the precision with which Italy closes itself hermetically, almost cynically, if it weren't for all the passion necessary to maintain such an attitude. Silipo clarifies this: "I already heard the bells of the deceased but if you put the will to suffer into it, nothing is impossible". At this point it certainly isn't qualifying for the Games, there is still a game to be won and to be played full of awareness. And it's not prohibitive to go for a medal, there are no limits for those who have beaten a team that has become a wall for anyone. The USA are entangled in our path and perhaps the match that marks the end of their empire lies in the fate of the crossroads: their last defeat at the World Cup depended on the Azzurri. On 29 July 2015, in the preliminary phase, in Kazan, Tania Di Mario's Setterosa won 10-9 to then conquer the bronze, behind the Americans who obviously immediately recovered and from there began the long streak of successes. That is also Italy's last podium in this competition. Silver comes at the Rio 2016 Olympics and, also there, in the final with the United States. Story that unfolds up to the challenge of Fukuoka. It had to be the end point, it can become the basis of an adventure and the coach knows it well: «I've seen the real Setterosa, the one I'm proud to drive and he can get anywhere, if he stays humble».

It's been since the last day of the last World Cup that Italy overtook the USA, right there where they are used to the clear course: the mixed 4x100 in Budapest, with the blues Ceccon, Martinenghi, Burdisso and gold Miressi in front of the appalled Americans used to keeping their distance regardless of the formations. In 2023, in Japan, it's a relay race again: on day one of swimming we start again from the 4x100 freestyle and the United States are behind us again, relegated to bronze and out of the battle for first place with Australia. In a race where they sometimes lose, the third step falls short of their expectations and statistics. Now women's water polo, with a jolt: the stars and stripes were the only flag to hold up to the end of the tournament for so long now that changing it was a sci-fi horizon. It will happen and now Italy wants to put its weight on it.

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