With Chris Duplanty making decisive saves in goal, the United States beat Croatia 10-8 Wednesday to finish second in its preliminary group and will play Spain for a place in the water polo semifinals.
The Americans finished second in Pool B, behind defending champion Italy, which was a perfect 5-0 and the only team to beat the United States. Croatia was third and Greece fourth.
In Barcelona four years ago, Spain took the silver medal, and the Americans finished fourth.
In other quarterfinals Friday, undefeated Hungary plays Greece, Russia faces defending champion Italy, and in the most intriguing match, Yugoslavia will battle Croatia.
The Americans used a smothering defense against a high-scoring team, but nearly got into trouble late.
Croatia got off to a rousing start, scoring twice in the first two minutes. The Americans battled back to take the lead at the start of the second period through Rick McNair. The score stood 4-4 after two periods, after some good saves by Duplanty.
With the score 5-5, Jeremy Laster scored twice within 1:10 minutes to break open the game.
Mike Evans made it a three-goal lead, and Duplanty made two more good saves as the Americans completed a 4-1 run in the third quarter that sealed it.
Earlier, Yugoslavia suffered a bitter 12-8 loss to perennial rival Hungary. Greece clinched the last quarterfinal berth by beating Ukraine 9-6, Spain defeated Russia 8-6, Germany beat Netherlands 9-8, and Italy edged Romania 10-9.