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Oct 21, 2017 4:00 PM

USA: (L to R) - Cacho Galindo, Carlucho Arellano, Matias Gonzalez, USPA CEO and team manager Robert Puetz, coach Joel Baker, Jesse Bray, Jim Wright, Felipe Viana.

Story by United States Polo Association with contributions from Pololine

The XI FIP World Polo Championship Sydney 2017, organized by the Sydney Polo Club kicked off Saturday, October 21, surrounded by great anticipation and a high-spirited atmosphere. 

The first game day comprised of two intense matchups. Argentina and USA faced off in the first game of the day in an exciting start to the tournament. Australia and Spain later went head-to-head in a nail biter that kept everyone in attendance on the edge of their seat.

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USA's Jim Wright sends a neckshot towards goal with Argentina's Hector Hernando Guerrero defending.

In the first match, Argentina defeated USA in a thrilling battle to the finish. The South American team managed a great start with back-to-back goals from Hector Hernando Guerrero and Lucio Fernandez Ocampo. Not to be left behind, USA’s Felipe Viana made an expert penalty conversion that added to the USA half goal on handicap to keep the score close 2-1.5. The teams each managed two goals in the second maintaining the gap. Argentina took the lead in the third, thanks to accurate penalty shots on goal, giving them a solid 7-4.5 lead. Once ahead, Argentina did not look back, effectively shutting out USA in the fourth and widening their lead by three. Jesse Bray, with assistance from his team, racked up four goals in the last two minutes of the game, outscoring Argentina by two. “Argentina kept beating us on the 50/50 plays, and finishing them with goals,” said Viana. “Finally, in the last chukker we started winning the 50/50 plays.” Despite the valiant effort by USA in the final chukker, Argentina rode away with the win 12-9.5. 

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USA's Matias Gonzalez takes the ball on the nearside as Argentina's Valentin Novillo Astrada rides on his hip.

“Congratulations to Argentina, they played a great game, the kind of game that we were trying to play. They are very quick on their anticipation and they found an open game, they made it look pretty easy. We will watch the games and will work on that, trying to analyze how we can do a better job and try to rebound on Tuesday. I was very encouraged because we never did quit, we came back really well during the last chukker, and we will carry on like this in our next game.”  – Joel Baker, Team USA Coach

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USA coach Joel Baker gives advice to Jesse Bray in between chukkers.

During the second match, tensions were high. Australia and Spain played head-to-head throughout the entire match. The locals finally defeated the European team in the overtime period. During the last chukker, it seemed that Spain was going to capture their first victory leading 9-7. Australia however was relentless, and with the support of their audience that cheered them on and stood by them, they tied the match and managed to score the golden goal in the supplementary period.

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Argentina's Valentin Novillo Astrada carries the ball down field.

The opening day also featured an entertaining jousting and vaulting show, and closed joyfully with a performance by Damage. 

Zone B matches begin on Sunday, with two great battles: England will face India at 11:00am AEST, while Chile will battle New Zealand at 2:00pm AEST. Zone A will continue on Tuesday: Argentina vs. Spain, and Australia will take on USA.