Host and world silver medallist Spain is to meet the title-holder Hungarian women’s side on the opening day of the 2018 European Water Polo Championships, according to the draw conducted on Wednesday in Barcelona. In the men’s tournament, the encounters between Hungary and Italy, Croatia and Greece, and Montenegro and Spain will be the highlights of the group stage.
The draw for the 2018 European Water Polo Championships was staged in the TVE Studios in Barcelona, televised and streamed live by the host broadcaster of the event. Spain’s former top player, world and European champion, Olympic silver medallist Jennifer Pareja was one of the hosts of the show.
After the welcome speeches of Maite Fandos, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona and Marta Carranza, Commissioner of the city’s sports department, the 2017 LEN Award for the best European female water polo players was presented. The trophy was handed over to the winner Laura Ester, world silver medallist Spain’s goalkeeper, by LEN Bureau Water Polo Liaison Fernando Carpena.
The draws were conducted by a handful of former greats of the local water polo family, Olympic champion Jordi Sans and Sergi Pedrerol and from the women’s team Laura Lopez and Ona Messeguer – from LEN’s side Operational Manager Marco Birri and TWPC Chairman Gianni Lonzi oversaw the process.
In the women’s tournament host and world silver medallist Spain was drawn together with title-holder Hungary and world bronze medallist Russia – ensuring that a handful of great games are already in sight. Spain and Hungary will play the opening match – the last time they met in the venue of the event, the Bernat Picornell Complex, their encounter turned into a thriller in the 2013 World Championships semi-final where Spain overturned a four-goal deficit and went on clinching the title. The other group features European runner-up the Netherlands, Olympic silver medallist Italy and 2011 world champion Greece.
Title-holder and Olympic champion Serbia might enjoy a relatively easier cruise in the group stage of the men’s competition in the company of Russia, Romania, and Slovakia. Then will probably come the big test for the Serbs as they could face either Hungary or Italy in the quarters.
Just like in 2016, Spain should play Belgrade silver medallist Montenegro in the prelims while the clash of world champion Croatia and 2015 world bronze medallist Greece also promise something special for the first week. Since only the top three advance to the knockout stage, the battles for the third places in the respective groups will also be fierce.
In his closing remarks, Fernando Carpena said that the Royal Spanish Water Polo Federation in association with the Catalan Federation, the city of Barcelona and the local authorities were quite grateful for LEN to have the opportunity to welcome Europe’s best water polo teams in July. “We are committed to organize a great tournament and to create a fantastic environment for the summer’s most important water polo event,” President of the Spanish Federation and LEN Bureau Member said.
The 33rd European Water Polo Championships will be staged in Barcelona on 14-28 July. The exact timing of the games will be available once Eurovision reached an agreement with the respective broadcasters.
Aleksandr Sostar, LEN Bureau WP Liaison, former Olympic champion, Serbia
“From Serbia’s point-of-view, the group in the men’s tournament looks a bit easier than the other three but right in the quarter-final, a really tough opponent comes for the team, probably Hungary or Italy. Anyway, I’m convinced the European Championships will offer a series of great matches every day.”
Predrag Sloboda, President, Croatian Federation
“Each group has two strong and two less strong sides in the men’s tournament, the real battles will start in the knock-out phase as usual. I’m really happy to see teams like Malta, Turkey, Georgia in the tournament, it should be our common goal to widen the basis of water polo.”
Alessandro Campagna, head coach, Italy (men)
“The teams we face are all very strong physically, so we won’t have a so-called ‘rest day’ against any of our rivals. Reaching the top position of the group always gives you some advantage but at the European Championships you cannot have any easy matches in the quarterfinals.”
Miguel Oca, head coach, Spain (women)
“I came for this draw without any big expectations. You know, we have six top teams, they were to be sorted three apiece, and in the women’s field, it really doesn’t make any difference if you play with Hungary, Netherlands, Russia, Greece or Italy. Anyone can beat anyone on a given day. Of course, finishing first and having an easier quarterfinal means a less stressing road to the semis, still, if you want to win the title, you have to beat everyone.”
Tamas Marcz, head coach, Hungary (men)
“So after last year’s World Championships, we’ll have Italy again in the group. And the first place would definitely put you on an easier route so our match is even more important. We’ll have to take care of the goal-difference perhaps while playing with the other teams. Anyway, this is the European Championships, you won’t have any easy matches.”
Top four sides advance to the quarterfinals.
Germany Montenegro Croatia Russia
Top-ranked sides qualify directly to the quarterfinals, second and third ranked sides will have to play crossover games to reach the best eight: A2-C3 (winner to meet D1), A3-C2 (winner to meet B1), B2-D3 (winner to meet C1), B3-D2 (winner to meet A1)
Note, Men’s Euro Cup Final
The draw for the men’s Euro Cup final – whether Ferencvaros (HUN) or Verona (ITA) will play the first game at home – will take place at the LEN Technical Water Polo Committee meeting on Friday in Barcelona.