WELLINGTON — The United States opened the XII FIP World Polo Championship on Saturday with an impressive 9-4 win over Australia at the USPA National Polo Center.
The quartet of Agustin Arellano, Jake Klentner and brothers Nico and Lucas Escobar led from start to finish with all four players scoring while stopping Australia’s offensive attack.
“We knew what we wanted to do, we played our game,” said Arellano, representing the United States for the first time. “We kept it simple. Everyone played their position.”
The United States took a 3-0 lead in the opening chukker of fast-paced open-style play. Lucas Escobar scored on a broken play at 4:08. Nico Escobar converted a 30-yard penalty and Arellano scored on Nico Escobar’s missed goal attempt.
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Lucas Escobar converted a 30-yard penalty with 5:02 remaining to put the United States out 4-0. Australia scored their first goal with 3:23 left in the second chukker. Jack Archibald scored back-to-back goals to trail 4-2 at halftime. Another penalty conversion by Archibald cut the USA lead to one with 3:42 left at the third chukker.
A minute later, USA roared with another Arellano goal for a 5-3 lead and regained momentum with their miserly defense and excellent passing. Australia could only come close to two goals in the final chukker as the United States scored three more goals, two by Nico Escobar and one by Klentner.
The top pony was Dolfina Citation, played by Lucas Escobar.
After a day off on Sunday, play resumes on Monday with four matches, including the United States taking on Italy at 3:30 p.m. at Valiente Polo Farm.
The United States have not won an FIP title since 1989. With their first win, they joined favorites Argentina and Uruguay.
Other matches on Saturday:
Argentina 10 Mexico 4
The defending champion had no problems with his opener taking an 8-1 lead at halftime. Jaoquin Sanchez led the scoring with five goals.
Spain 9 Pakistan 7.5
Spain pulled away to a 6.5-2 half-time lead before Pakistan rallied to close the gap behind top scorer Hamza Mawaz, who finished with seven goals including five conversions on penalty. Luis Domecq Carrion led Spain with three goals.
Uruguay 8 Italy 3.5
Led by Nachi Viana and Santi Stirling, Uruguay opened a close game, leading 3-2.5 at half time allowing only one goal to Italy in the second half. The duo combined for seven goals.
The opening ceremonies featured the parade of teams waving their country’s large flags as they sat in classic convertible cars hosted by Palm Beach County Hall of Famer Neil London of Super Car Week. Former 10-goal player Tommy Hitchcock, killed while testing a military aircraft during World War II, was honored before the match with a flyby by a P-51 Mustang fighter jet he played a role decisive in development.
Eight countries are taking part in the world’s largest international polo competition held on American soil for only the second time.
“We have put a lot of resources into making this event a world-class event,” said USPA President Tony Coppola, who is also FIP’s Ambassador to the United States. “No stone was left unturned. USPA’s goal is to make this a world class tournament and show what we have now that we have NPC.”
Zone A, 9:30 a.m. Game 5 – Argentina v Pakistan at Valiente; 11:30 am Match 6 – Spain vs Mexico in Valiente; Zone B, 1.30pm Game 7 – Uruguay vs Australia at Valiente; 3:30 p.m. Game 8 – USA v Italy at Valiente Polo Farm. Admission is free except for paid events.