The match Italy – Greece was the most awaited encounter of the first day at the male tournament of the 34th European Championships in Budapest.
World champion Italy recorded a 10:6 victory. If the Italians don’t allow surprises in the next two rounds (against Georgia and France), they will secure a spot in the quarterfinals.
European and Olympic champion Serbia, also, achieved an important win. In the first round of Group C, the Serbs defeated its biggest rival in the group stage Russia (12:9) and took a huge step towards the quarterfinals.
In the other games of today’s evening session, host Hungary beat Turkey 19:5, while Georgia came out as a winner of a big battle with France -9:7.
Day 1, results
Group A: Slovakia – Montenegro 4:15, Germany – Croatia 9:17.
Group B: Romania – Netherlands 8:9, Serbia – Russia 13:9
Group C: Malta – Spain 7:23, Turkey – Hungary 5:19.
Group D: France – Georgia 7:9, Italy – Greece 10:6.
Serbia – Russia 13:9 (3:1, 4:3, 2:3, 4:2)
Serbia: Prlainovic 4, Mandic 2, Cuk 2, Filipovic 2, Dedovic 1, Aleksic 1, Jaksic 1.
Russia: Merkulov 3, Nagaev 2, Bychkov 2, Lisunov 1, Kharkov 1.
Extra player shot: Serbia 5/8, Russia 5/7. Penalty shots: Serbia 1/1.
As expected, titleholder Serbia defeated Russia, but the Russians managed to keep up with the favorites for a while. This game was very similar to the encounter between Serbia and Russia at the 2018 European Championships when the Serbs recorded an 11:9 victory in the group stage.
The Serbs opened the match with a 3:0 lead. Russia managed to reduce the gap to one twice (2:3, 4:5). Still, the European and Olympic champions had a substantial 7:4 advantage at halftime.
After just two and a half minutes of play in the third period, the Russians leveled – 7:7, by scoring three consecutive man-up goals. Then Serbia’s head coach Dejan Savic asked a time-out. The Serbs consolidated their defense after that short break and went 9:7 up.
Russia cut the deficit in the 27th minute once more (8:9), but Serbia answered with two nice goals (Prlainovic and Cuk) for a safe 11:8 advantage four minutes before the end.
Romania – Netherlands 8:9 (2:2, 2:3, 4:1, 0:3)
Day 2 (January 16th): Romania – Serbia, Russia – Netherlands.
Turkey – Hungary 5:19 (4:4, 0:4, 1:3, 0:8)
Turkey:Yenigun 2, Ozbek 2, Yutmaz 1.
Hungary:Manhercz 4, Erdelyi 3, Angyal 2, Zalnaki 2, Vamos 2, Hosnyanszky 2, Pohl 1, Jansik 1, Varga 1, Mezei 1.
Extra player shot:Turkey 3/6, Hungary 7/11. Penalty shots: Hungary 3/3.
Just like most of the favorites, Hungary had some troubles in the opening minutes. Turkey stunned the hosts with a 3:1 lead. Hungary responded with three goals, but the Turks managed to level the score 19 seconds from the end of the first period – 4:4.
However, after this equalizer, the Turks scored just one goal. Hungary earned an 8:4 advantage. Yengun netted from an extra for 5:8 early in the third period. In the remaining time, Hungary nailed 11 unanswered goals.
Malta – Spain 7:23 (3:4, 2:6, 0:7, 2:6)
Day 2 (January 16th): Malta – Turkey, Hungary – Spain
Italy – Greece 10:6 (1:2, 3:2, 3:1, 3:1)
Italy:Luongo 2, Figlioli 2, Echenique 2, Di Fulvio 1, Renzuto 1, Bodegas 1, Dolce 1.
Greece: Genidounias 1, Kapotsis 1, Fountoulis 1, Argyropoulos 1, Mourikis 1, Gounas 1.
Italy scored an opening goal, but the first period belonged to the Greeks – 2:1. The world champions created a lot of good actions and chances during the second period, but Greece’s goalkeeper Emanouil Zerdevas was excellent. He blocked a lot of dangerous shots. Italy earned a new lead (4:3) in the 14th minute when Pietro Figlioli converted a man-up. But, Fountoulis leveled (4:4) 14 seconds before the middle break, also from an extra-player shot.
The third quarter proved crucial for the outcome. Italy produced a 3:0 rush for a comfortable 7:4 lead. The Greeks trailed 5:7 before the last period. Their last effort to come back was Genidounias’s goal three minutes from the end (6:8). But, Echenique and Renzuto closed the match with goals for the final score – 10:6.
France – Georgia 7:9 (3:2, 2:3, 1:2, 1:2)
France: Vernoux 2, Izdinsky 2, Marion-Vernoux 1, Crousillat 1, Marzouki 1.
Georgia: Vapenski 3, Magrakvelidze 1, Baraldi 1, Imnashvili 1, Bitadze 1, Jakhaia 1, Bagaturia 1.
Extra player shot: France 4/8, Georgia 3/11. Penalty shots: Georgia 1/2.
Georgia proved that it came to Budapest well prepared, which our blogger Vjekoslav Kobescak emphasized in his column a few days ago. They played a very tough match against France and managed to broke the rival in the final minutes.
Georgia had an early 2:0 advantage, but after a few turns, the sides were tied at halftime – 5:5. The defenses dominated after the middle break, while Georgia’s Boris Vapenski broke the deadlock with to give his team a 6:5 advantage 76 seconds before the last break. Marion Vernoux equalized in the next possession, but the Georgians entered the last period with a minimal 7:6 lead.
Thomas Vernoux leveled at 7:7, but quickly after that, Georgia went 9:7 up. The Georgians had a few excellent chances in the remaining time, but France’s goalkeeper Remi Garsau was outstanding. On the other side, Garsau’s teammates ran out of gas for the last several minutes, they made a lot of mistakes in the attack (turnover fouls, lost balls) and Georgia kept the win.
Boris Vapenski was the best scorer with three goals. He debuted for Georgia this season, but the tournament in Budapest isn’t his first European Championships. Ten years ago, he won bronze in Zagreb, playing for Serbia.
Day 2 (January 16th): Greece – Georgia, France – Italy.
Germany – Croatia 9:17 (2:1, 2:6, 1:6, 4:4)
Slovakia – Montenegro 4:15 (2:1, 0:6, 1:4, 1:4)
Day 2(January 16th): Germany – Slovakia, Montenegro – Croatia.