Holding down the No. 1 spot in any water polo team is hard. Holding it as a reigning world champion will be even tougher when it comes to the sticky end of the 19th FINA World Championships in Budapest this month.

Marco Del Lungo comes with credentials and his stirring performances at Gwangju 2019 led he and his team to the top of the dais. This came three years after gaining bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Earlier medals in his career with the Settebello include bronze at the Budapest 2014 European Championships and silver at the Ruza 2017 FINA World League Super Final.

Throw in a LEN Super Cup in 2015-16, the Serie A in 2020-21 and the Coppa Italia 2011-12, all with Brescia, he then swapped camps for Pro Recco and was an immediate success with the 2021 LEN Super Cup and 2021-22 Coppa Italia and lately the Champions League crown.

Del Lungo’s formative water polo career began with Civitavecchia in 2005 before his skills were rewarded with the Brescia contract in 2011. He regards Brescia and Pro Recco as two of the best teams in the world. AN Brescia dipped to FTC Telecom Budapest 14-12 in the play-off for bronze in Belgrade.

Del Lungo’s second sortee to the Olympic Games came with mixed feelings and a disappointing seventh classification. “Unfortunately, we have always suffered. We played very stale all the time and unfortunately it caused us to finish in seventh place.”

Scoring Goals asked Marco what it feels like returning to the FINA World Championships as a world champion?

“It is a great responsibility, because you have to reconfirm yourself.”

I would describe you as if you were in your prime. Do you have many years left at the highest level?

“There are many young goalkeepers trying to join the national team.”

How would you describe yourself alongside the great Stefano Tempesti and would you like to play five Olympics? 

“Stefano was the best goalkeeper of all time and playing with him is a fantastic experience because Stefano is a great athlete and pushes you to go further.”

What are your best qualities as a goalkeeper?

“My best feature is speed. I am very quick but sometimes I anticipate the opponent's move so much that I have to recover.”

What do you do outside of water polo and what do you hope to do after the end of your career?

“I still have to decide my future. I am a graduate and I plan to continue in the world of sports.”

Is there anyone you would like to add or people to thank?

“I always thank my wife Alessandra and daughter Vittoria who always push me to give 100 per cent every day.”

What do you like most about playing with your teammates?

“The desire they put into every workout to improve themselves.”

That desire spills over into his play and his ability to perform will be closely watched in Hungary. In the Champions League final in Belgrade, Del Lungo was at his best, making several steals and blocking a shootout attempt that ultimately led to the victory that crushed the hearts of the host nation’s representative.

Marco has one sentence that describes his game: “I was born a goalkeeper; I will die as a goalkeeper.”

Let’s hope the latter comment won’t come true for many years to come and we get to witness a fine craftsman producing his greatest work for the whole world to see.