The last round will determine the top spots in both groups in the women’s tournament at the European Water Polo Championships in Barcelona. Russia is still in the race in Group B though their loss to Hungary means that now they need at least a 3-goal win against host Spain on Saturday to clinch the first place.
Whenever Hungary and Russia play, entertainment is guaranteed, some thrilling moments too – for those close to the teams minor heart-attacks as well (in the Olympic bronze medal match in Rio the Russians saved the game to a penalty shootout with a last-second goal and grabbed the bronze after seven rounds). Though this time the sides failed to produce the usual double digits in scoring, they didn’t let the spectators relax for a single moment.
Hungary took a flying start, led 0-3 and 1-4 but the Russians also arrived at the pool and deep into the third they had a man-up to go even at 3-4. However, they could never equalize even though in the third, at 5-6, they had three more man-ups but missed all. In this period the Hungarians were unable to score but Aniko Gyongyossy’s nice backhanded shot from the center in the first possession in the last quarter put them 5-7 ahead.
Elvina Karimova pulled one back and again they had two man-ups to go even but wasted both while Anna Illes put the Magyars’ 6 on 5 away for 6-8 with 3:45 to go. She hit the block from the next one, thus instead to go 3+, Russia could get close once more, however – after another missed extra –, this goal came 31sec from time and the Hungarians didn’t give away the ball.
In two days time the Russians meet Spain, a three-goal win would still put them on top of the group, narrower wins would leave them second, any other result would give them the third position. The last day will determine the higher ranks in the other group as well since the favorites all did their respective jobs in the fourth round.
The game between Germany and Turkey decided the last qualifying spot in Group B. After three consecutive 30+ goals shocks, the Turks played bravely, led 1-3 in the second period but in the crazy finish the Germans netted three in 88 seconds, three more came in further 47 seconds (two from the Turks) thus the favorite side led 7-6 at half-time.
Though the Germans netted two for 9-6, the Turks came back and trailed by one before the final period but they ran out of gas and three more German goals – including the last two from Jennifer Stiefel who scored 5 – in the fourth ended the contest.
Dimitrios Mavrotas, head coach, Israel:
“It was a game we knew it would be difficult. We are here to gain experience for the next competitions. The girls are young and each experience is a step forward. My congratulations go to the Greek team. They didn’t play so strong, I guess they were saving their energy for the next match which is crucial for them.”
Georgios Morfesis, head coach, Greece:
“It was a match between two teams with different objectives. Still, I can see the improvement in their game, a lot actually. Their coach is doing a good job. I’m proud of, not only him but also other Greek coaches working around the world like in Canada and Australia. We are now focusing on Holland. We are targeting position No. 1 in Group A and will try our best to achieve that.”
Anja Skibba, head coach, Germany:
“We are happy to have qualified for the quarter-finals. It was not a good game. However, the team spirit was high, they fought and supported each other. The team didn’t stick to the previously agreed tactics the whole time but it’s OK after all. We have to continue working hard and look for the future. On the other hand, it’s better to play bad and win than play beautiful and lose.”
Hakan Sahbaz, head coach, Turkey:
“This was the first game we could play on even terms. We made too many mistakes in defense and the outcome is only reasonable. We must turn our attention to the next game.”
Fabio Conti, head coach, Italy:
“It was a good game for us but in reality just a training before the last round of the group stage at this championships. We want to give our best on Friday against France and then wait and see from which position we’ll enter the quarter-finals.”
Dragan Matutinovic, head coach, Croatia:
“Losing by more than 20 goals… it’s a whole different level of water polo. The key for us is a game against Israel. I’m not promising anything but we want to win. They play well, are excellent swimmers and very fit. We’ll give our best, it would be a great thing for us. We are not as strong physically as we should be.”
Arno Havenga, head coach, Netherlands:
“It was a good match. We played well, very concentrated, the team as a whole did a good job. We are now turning onto the decisive match against Greece on Friday.”
Florian Bruzzo, head coach, France:
“Today, we were literally destroyed by the other team; they’re taller, stronger and the team has a higher level than us in general. All their players play in a strong league competition, Hungary, Spain and in the best US Universities. The good thing is that we’ll be in the next round, so we can work hard to perform better then.”
Attila Biro, head coach, Hungary:
“It’s getting better, we managed to apply most of our game plan. We could prevent them from scoring goals from counters and did some good job in man-down defense – I can tell you, keeping this Russian team under 10 goals is not an easy job. Still, there is room for improvement, I wasn’t really satisfied with our man-ups and we could have finished more counters with goals. At this level, you must score from the best chances. As everyone else, we are also preparing for the knock-out phase, we’ll see whom we shall play in this game called ‘Who has the last laugh?’ – we fell back by four squares on the first day (against Spain), now managed to go one step forward.”
Andrei Belofastov, assistant coach, Russia:
“We started off badly, were down 2-4. Eight exclusions for Hungary and 2 for us didn’t help either. Later into the game we managed to catch our rhythm. We only scored 4 out of 14 extra men. With that percentage you cannot expect too much, we have to convert more. We simply made too many mistakes in offense and missed too many chances. It just wasn’t our day. The match against Spain will decide how we go on. What’s done is done.”
Miki Oca, head coach, Spain:
“After this victory, we have to prepare for our next match, which will be harder than our first three games. We will rest tonight and tomorrow we will begin our preparations for the next match. The first place of the group is in play and we face a very strong side, Russia. We have played against them several times this year and every game was tough, so we are prepared to have a challenging match against them. I’m confident that we can win, but we will have to be fully focused.”
Dejan Jovovic, head coach, Serbia:
“This outcome is to be expected when playing against a team with high ambitions of finishing as No. 1 in our group. Next, they’re facing Russia and goal difference could play a role in the outcome, so they came with full gear. The thing that makes me content is the fact that in the second part of the game we managed to control our attack and showed discipline in play.”
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