Title-holder Netherlands clinches the other top spot, Russia downs Greece


34th European Water Polo Championships, Budapest Day 8

The Netherlands won Group B thank to a surprisingly easy cruising against Spain in the decisive match on the last day in the women’s prelims. Russia bested Greece with a devastating performance in the second half (they won that part 7-1) to finish second in Group A. After the men’s team, the Hungarian women also made a shutout, beating Serbia 27-0, so the hosts and the Dutch will enjoy an easier QF, while the clashes of Spain v Greece and Russia v Italy promise some exciting water polo for Tuesday. In the other matches Slovakia and Israel added historical chapters to their respective storylines at the Europeans. The Slovaks returned to the big stage after 37 years and now managed to reach the quarter-finals as they beat Croatia in a highly exciting match. Israel had two draws from their first-ever appearance in 2018 but no wins – today they claimed a historical first victory as they blew away the Germans.

Women’s preliminaries, Round 5

Group A: Greece v Russia 7-12, Serbia v Hungary 0-27, Slovakia v Croatia 9-7

Rankings: 1. Hungary 15, 2. Russia 12, 3. Greece 9, 4. Slovakia 6, 5. Croatia 3, 6. Serbia 0

Group B: Spain v Netherlands 6-10, France v Italy 6-18, Germany v Israel 3-10

Rankings: 1. Netherlands 15, 2. Spain 12, 3. Italy 9, 4. France 6, 5. Israel 3, 6. Germany 0

Fixtures for Tuesday

Quarter-finals: Hungary v France, Russia v Italy, Greece v Spain, Slovakia v Netherlands. For places 9-10th: Croatia v Israel. For places 11-12th: Serbia v Germany

The schedule of the games will be confirmed tomorrow (QFs of SVK v NED and HUN v FRA to be switched, the latter one starting at 19.00).

The game between Spain and the Netherlands was of the most awaited clashes of the prelims – but this time the two sides weren’t on the same level. The Dutch took a flying start, led 0-2 in less than three minutes while the Spaniards struggled in front of the goal. In the second, Holland doubled its lead, Spain’s first goal was a lucky one and they needed 13:07 minutes to get on the scoreboard. At halftime the title-holders led 1-6 and soon they went 2-8 up with 5:03 remaining in the third (the second Spanish goal came from a third shot in the same 6 on 5).

It all looked way too one-sided, then the Spaniards’ caught a better spell and managed to score four unanswered goals for 6-8, what’s more they had a man-up to come even closer but Debby Willemsz could put a hand on the ball (she was 14/20, 70.0%). Soon Catharina van der Sloot broke the Dutch silence after 10:52 minutes and that cooled back the game. The match produced some unusual stats, the difference in the number of shots was quite unusual at this level, 33-18 to Spain, still, the Netherlands managed to win by four goals. Spain’s LEN Award winner goalie Laura Ester had a miserable afternoon, she didn’t have a single save in the game (0/10), while her teammates were 1 for 15 in man-ups in front.

Spain will have another showdown with Greece, this time in the quarters after the two sides met in the semis two years ago. The Greeks fell apart for the second half in their game against Russia. Until 4-2 they seemed to control the match, and even if the Russians could hit three in a row, they could take back the lead by halftime (6-5). Next came the Russians, though, netted three in the third while the Greeks ran out of ideas in front and missed all their shots. Russia staged a 0-5 rush, shutting out their rivals for 13:34 minutes – all in all, they won the second half 1-7 and secured the second spot in the group, and a great encounter against Italy.

Two milestones were passed in the earlier games. First Slovakia reached the quarter-finals for the first time in the women’s tournament. Their feat is even more remarkable if we take into account that this is their second appearance on the big stage and they needed 37 years to return after a winless edition in 1993. Here they managed to beat Serbia and now they downed Croatia in a thrilling encounter. Though the Croats jumped to a 1-3 lead, the Slovaks came back by halftime (4-4). Croatia netted two in 44 seconds early in the third for 4-6, the Slovaks hit back with a double soon, in a span of 54 seconds. Then Kristina Horvathova delivered some crucial saves, including a penalty catch at 6-6, then one more at 7-6, followed immediately by Beata Kovacikova’s great lob for 8-6. This 4-0 run did the damage, the Serbs could pull one back 1:47 from time but Slovakia put away a 6 on 5 from the next possession to secure their second win and book a spot in the quarters.

Israel came to Budapest as the other winless team in the field: they had two draws in Barcelona but no victories in regular time. Here they lost the first four matches (as expected) but they blew away the Germans on this last day of the group stage. It turned into an embarrassingly one-sided contest after a while, Israel led 1-10 after three periods, the time elapsed between the first (1-1) and second (2-10) German goal was 20:08 minutes. It means that the Germans have to settle for their worst-ever placement in history (11th or 12th) after their lowest rank was 8th so far.

The day saw two big wins too, Italy looked to leave all the miseries behind while beating France 18-6, while the host Hungarians copy-pasted the men’s team feat from Saturday and shut out the Serbs while scoring one more goal (27-0). This was the 8th occasion in the history of the women’s Europeans when a team couldn’t score in a game – Hungary achieved the shutout once before, in 1991 (against host Greece), while the last time it happened was in Belgrade 2016 when the Netherlands closed down all incoming roads against Turkey. (len.eu)