The Netherlands clinched the title for the first time since 1993: they beat Greece 6-4 to claim the nation’s 5th gold at the women’s European Water Polo Championships. This ties Italy’s record and gives them back the top rank on the all-time medal table. The Greeks had to settle for silver for the third time and yet to earn their first gold. The bronze remained in Spain as the hosts beat Hungary with ease.
The Netherlands returned to the throne after 25 long years. The most successful nation of the early days was close in the previous two editions but lost the finals. The Greeks were chasing their first title at the Europeans after similarly lost back-to-back finals in 2010 and 2012.
The Dutch took the better start and gained a 2-0 lead, the Greeks needed some more time to settle in the game and four more man-up to make it even in the second period. In a span of two minutes four goals came, Catharina van der Sloot’s 10m shot was a beauty and gave a 4-3 lead to the Dutch. After the electrifying moments, the ladies tested the woodworks at both ends (the Greeks hit the post from three consecutive possessions, the Dutch did it twice).
Then the sides entangled in a tactical battle, the zone-defending took over and teams didn’t risk too much. The Dutch could earn a man-up after four minutes and Maud Megens’s blast did the harm. Two minutes later they could have gone +3 up but Megens hit the post from the next-man-up, still, Greece continued struggling in front.
Their drought lasted embarrassingly long, 15:33 minutes, and even if Nikoleta Eleftheriadou broke their silence with 4:21 to go in the last period, van der Sloot replied immediately with a magnificent lob from 7m for 6-4 (she was named the MVP of the tournament).
Time started running out for the Greeks since they lacked the precision which helped them ousting Spain in the semis. They took 22 shots but 11 were either missed or hit the post – just like in their last 6 on 5 when the ball jumped over the bar. This also credited the Dutch defense which did a tremendous job by killing 7 out of 8 Greek extras, headed by the tournament’s best goalkeeper Laura Aarts. Soon the Dutch started celebrating: they were over the (red) moon.
The other games turned into lopsided contests. Spain needed eight minutes to take a decisive 1-5 lead against Hungary. The hosts slowed down a bit later and the Hungarians even had a man-up early in the third to come back to two at 6-3 but missed it, and a Spanish double in 52 seconds settled the game once and forever (the shots taken tell part of the story: it was 21-31 to Spain). It means that Hungary missed the podium for the 4th time in the 17 editions since 1985.
Russia beat the Italians with surprising ease for the 5th place, after a relatively balanced first half, the third period proved decisive when the Russians jumped to a 6-goal lead and never looked back. The French also thrashed the Germans for the 7th place.
Arno Havenga, head coach, Netherlands:
“I am very happy of course. Today was the continuation of the play and work we have shown throughout the championships and a perfect ending of the Europeans. We were concentrated. This victory and the way we achieved it was the result of that.”
Catharina van den Sloot, MVP, Netherlands:
“This is good for us. We have lost three previous finals and finally tonight we have won. This is good for our self-confidence. I think we will celebrate this title by going to eat tapas and then partying…”
Georgios Morfesis, head coach, Greece:
“Today we played the first top event final after six years. I am very proud of my team. This year we won the Europa Cup and now are silver medallists at the Europeans. This is a big year for us. We have made a comeback. Today Holland was better. We couldn’t find a solution in our offense. They deserved to win. Once again I want to dedicate this medal to the people of my country who are suffering from the consequences of the tragic fires. I hope this victory brings them some joy.”
Alexandra Asimaki, captain, Greece:
“I guess… words cannot describe how disappointed we are right now. They were better from the start. We didn’t play well in attack today, we weren’t focused. I am happy and satisfied with the season we had. It is a big step forward to many things we can do in the future, in fact, two steps forward all together this year. I hope we can do many great things.”
Miguel Oca, head coach, Spain:
“We did a great game from the start to the finish. We played well in defense, scored early and made a significant difference right at the beginning. We are very happy.”
Attila Biro, head coach, Hungary
“I think the players were a bit worn out, first of all mentally. Signs came already in the semi-finals against the Netherlands, while now the first period decided everything. Going 1-5 down against Spain is equal to lose. Though after our goalie started making saves we came back a bit, had some chances to come back to two, the mental fatigue hit back again there, and soon we were nowhere. For our reshaping team this the result is fine, we made the semis, however, all of us a bit sad because of going home without a medal.”
Fabio Conti, head coach, Italy:
“This tournament showed us that apart from today we are at the same level of the other strong European teams. Still, I think there is a thin line that we have yet to cross. Our advantage is that we still have a lot of space to grow. Ultimately, we have to turn this into action and show it in the pool.”
Andrei Belofastov, assistant coach, Russia:
“We should have been playing the semi-finals with Italy. It’s a sport… Psychology plays a big role in women’s sport. For Italy today, for example. We hope we can reach the World Championships through the World Cup in September. Today everything was great. Our extra man was at 50%, the defense killed 13 out of 17, 75%, our goalie saved two penalties. Overall, we are not satisfied. It’s hard to say which is worse, to lose the bronze game or win the 5th. To sum it up, we had difficulties with the games throughout the Europeans.”
Florian Buzzo, head coach, France:
“The game was a little bit slow. It’s the end of the tournament and everybody is tired and wants to go home. It’s also an end of two months of preparations. We won but didn’t play so well. The championships? It’s OK. I would say we showed the ability to play against the best teams for 2-3-5 minutes. We are still far from the top 6. We will work to come closer to them in time.”
Ana Skibba, head coach, Germany:
“The end is OK. I’m not happy with the result. I think the score is too high. France played well, strongly, very quickly and with a lot of movement – this is how we would like to play. I want to thank my girls, my assistant coach. I enjoyed the championships. It was my first as a coach and it will stay in my memory forever.”
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