In the next week, most of the best male national water polo teams will start the preparations for 2023. Some of the squads will have joint training, and some will play friendly matches
Most of the coaches will give a chance to some players who have yet to play for the national teams or returnees to prove themselves.
A few new names on the lists of the players invited to the preparations of France and Croatia attract attention because they are connected with changes in citizenships.
On Monday, the French national team will gather at the INSEP Centre (the National Institute, Expertise and Performance) in Paris. The hosts of the next Olympic Games will work in that training camp until January 3.
A 35-year-old center-forward Michael Bodegas, who has dual French-Italian citizenship, is among the candidates for the national team of France after an eight-year absence.
Bodegas played for France until 2014. In the next year, Italy granted Bodegas citizenship. He debuted for “Settebello” at the 2016 European Championships. Playing for Italy, the experienced center-forward won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games and gold at the World Championships in 2019.
After the Tokyo Olympics, he returned to Marseille, the club he played for until 2013 (in the meantime, he wore caps of Brescia, Pro Recco and Barceloneta).
Since the end of the Tokyo Olympics, Bodegas hasn’t been invited to the Italian national team, and there have been a lot of indications that Bodegas might rejoin the team of France. We have already written about that. He had the right to play for France at the 2022 European Championships. But, Bodegas didn’t participate in the national team’s spring and summer preparations and games in 2022.
Still, the list of players invited to the preparations proves that France head coach Florian Bruzzo counts on Bodegas.
Bruzzo called up 20 players. It’s interesting to mention that among them are two native Croats – Drazen Kujacic and Duje Zivkovic, the players of Tourcoing.
Drazen Kujacic (born in Dubrovnik in 1990), who has had dual Croatian-French citizenship since 2020, has participated in the preparations of the French national team this year, but he hasn’t played in official matches.
A 32-year-old leftie Duje Zivkovic (born in Split) takes part in an action of France’s national team for the first time. He played for Croatia several years ago and won bronze at the 2014 World Cup in Kazakhstan.
Both Kujacic and Zivkovic have been playing in the French League for a long time.
Born Dane Emil Bjorch is also among the invited players, but he isn’t a newcomer. He represented France in the World League and at the European Championships this year.
The list of players invited to the preparations in INSEP
Goalkeepers: Hugo Fontani (Strasbourg), Clement Dubois (Tourcoing), Anthony Rossi (Sete), Field players: Mehdi Marzouki (Tourcoing), Valentin Bakircilar (Pays d’Aix), Ugo Crousillat (Marseille), Charles Canonne (Tourcoing), Roman Marion-Vernoux (Marseille), Michael Izdinsky (Marseille), Andrea De Nardi (Marseille), Mathis Mas (Marseille), Alexandre Bouet (Marseille), Lorris Canovas (Strasbourg), Pierre-Frederic Vanpeperstraete (Marseille), Denis Guerin (Noisy-le-Sec), Drazen Kujacic (Tourcoing), Michael Bodegas (Marseille), Duje Zivkovic (Tourcoing), Emil Bjorch (Noisy-le-Sec).
Croatia will have joint training with Montenegro in Zagreb (December 27 – 29) and with Hungary (January 2 – 4).
The European champion’s head coach Ivica Tucak picked 18 players for these preparations, and a new name is center-forward Goran Grgurevic.
He is a Montenegrin, born in Kotor in 1998, who started his career in Primorac. After leaving Kotor, he played for several French clubs. This year Grgurevic signed a contract with Jug Dubrovnik.
Tucak spoke to Grgurevic recently, and the center-forward said that he wished to play for Croatia.
Grgurevic hasn’t played for the senior team of Montenegro, so he will probably get the right to play for Croatia soon if all other administrative requirements are met and, of course, if Tucak decides that Jug’s player reinforcement deserves a place in the team.
According to the regulations of the World Aquatics (former FINA), a player who changes citizenship is allowed to play for a new national team at least one year after the last game for the national team he competed before.
The list of players invited to the preparations in Zagreb
Goalkeepers: Marko Bijac (Olympiacos), Toni Popadic (Jug AO), Ivan Marcelic (Jadran Split); Field players: Ivan Krapic (Noisy-le-Sec), Branimir Herceg (Mladost), Goran Grgurevic (Jug AO), Rino Buric (Jadran), Matias Biljaka (Jug AO), Marko Zuvela (Jug AO), Luka Bukic (Jadran S), Loren Fatovic (Jug AO), Jerko Marinić Kragic (Jadran S), Ante Vukicevic (Marseille), Franko Lazic (Jug AO), Konstantin Kharkov (Brescia), Andrija Basic (Waspo 98 Hannover), Filip Krzic (Jug AO) and Dario Rakovac (Mladost).