TO their unbridled relief, the Australian men’s water polo team control their own destiny at the London Olympics.
If they win their final group game against Greece on Monday (8.20pm AEST), the Sharks will sneak into the quarter-finals. Anything less than than victory and their campaign is over.
After Saturday’s 11-6 loss to group leaders Croatia, Australia spent three hours in limbo as they sweated on the result of Greece’s clash with Spain.
Had the Greeks won, the Sharks would have been dead in the water.
Instead Spain prevailed 11-9, handing the grateful Australians a lifeline they do not intend to let slip from their grasp.
‘‘It’s been a long road, it’s been four years, but we’re not out yet,’’ Australian centre back Richie Campbell said.
‘‘We’re still positive. We’ve got a game against Greece which, if we win, we’re through.
‘‘It’s unfortunate it’s come down to this last game, which is do or die. Our next game is our gold-medal match, our biggest game of the tournament.’’
The 24-year-old from Merewether, appearing at his second Olympics, said he had been "100 per cent’’ confident that Spain would make no mistake against Greece.
‘‘Oh yeah,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re a good team.’’
Australia have one win from four games, against last-placed Kazakhstan. Greece have had one win, against the same opposition, and a draw against world champions Italy.
Campbell said Australia were positive they could survive their last-man-standing shoot-out with the Greeks.
‘‘We trained against Greece for a whole week in the lead-up [to London] and we’re comfortable with them,’’ he said.
‘‘We matched them every day we played them and beat them occasionally, so we’re very confident against Greece.’’
Australian veteran Thomas Whalan, appearing at his fourth Olympics, goes into his 313th international match knowing that it could be his last.
The same goes for teammate Gavin Woods, also a survivor of Australia’s campaigns at Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
‘‘I’m almost 100 per cent sure that this will be my last Olympics,’’ Whalan said.
‘‘So I’m making sure that I give it absolutely everything.
‘‘We’re still not down and out.
‘‘Greece is going to be a big game.’’ Whalan scored a hat-trick against Croatia, but coach John Fox said Australia needed to improve their shooting after a six-from-29 strike rate in that game.
‘‘Our execution is just not coming off,’’ Whalan said.
"I believe mainly our extra man is not coming off.
‘‘We’re creating opportunities. We’re doing enough in normal attack to create opportunities, but we’re not putting them away. ‘‘Simple as that. We’ve been working on it.
‘‘We’ve just got to find those holes and put it in there.’’
Whalan said Australia’s self-belief was still strong and they would not waste their chance to stay afloat.
‘‘It’s not a lack of confidence that this team has,’’ he said.
‘‘I just know that no matter what the results are, I just know we’ll bounce back . . . Croatia outplayed us in all aspects of the game, but we’re still very confident that we can match it and put it away against Greece.’’
Australia’s women’s team, the Stingers, qualified top of their group with three wins from as many games and were due to play China overnight in the quarter-finals.