The Croatian national team has won the BENU Cup, which has been finished in Budapest today.
Four strong national teams took part in a traditional 3-day tournament, which was played in the “Alfred Hajos” pool on Margaret Island. Hungary finished 2nd, Spain won 3rd place. Russia, the only of the four participating teams that didn’t qualify for the Tokyo Games, finished 4th.
Croatia opened the BENU cup with a 15:11 victory over Spain, then it defeated host and European champion Hungary (13:11), and cemented 1st place with a convincing 21:11 win over Russia.
Hungary and Spain collected four points each. Their encounter was ended in a draw, but the hosts won 2nd place because of a better goal difference.
Day 1: Croatia – Spain 15:11, Hungary – Russia 19:14, Day 2: Hungary – Croatia 11:13, Spain – Russia 15:11, Day 3: Croatia – Russia 21:11, Hungary – Spain 11:11
Standings: 1. Croatia 9, 2. Hungary 4 (+3), 3. Spain 4 (0), 4. Russia 0.
Croatia – Spain 15:11 (4:0, 4:5, 4:2, 3:3)
Croatia:Bukic 4, Fatovic 2, Loncar 2, Jokovic 2, Obradovic 2, Vukicevic 1, Milos 1, Vrlic 1.
Spain: Fernandez 3, Granados 3, Munarriz 1, Larumbe 1,Famera 1,Barroso 1, Bustos 1.
Hungary – Russia 19:14 (5:5, 4:3, 6:1, 4:5)
Hungary: Varga 5, Pasztor 3, Manhercz 2, Zalanki 2, Hosnyanszky 2, Vamos 1, Jansik 1, Burian 1, Nemet 1, Harai 1.
Russia: Shepelev 4, Merkulov 3, Stepanov 2,Kholod 2, Vasilev 1, Bychkov 1, Sheikin 1.
Croatia got off to a flying start. In the first match of the tournament, the Croats beat Spain by four goals. Everything was decided in the opening minutes. The Croats rushed to a 5:0 lead before Spain scored its first goal in the 10th minute. The Spaniards couldn’t recover from that shock. They reduced the gap to 2:5. But, the Croats responded with two goals quickly after that and jumped to a 7:2 lead. Croatia controlled the match, and the distance between the teams was never smaller than three goals.
The second encounter of the day, between Hungary and Russia, offered many goals. Russia kept up with the Hungarians for more than two quarters. At halftime, Hungary had a 9:8 lead. Early in the third period, the hosts stretched the margin to three (11:8). In the middle of the quarter, Russia came close for the last time (9:11). But, Hungary, led by Denes Varga, scored four goals in the last four minutes of this period and earned a safe 15:9 advantage before the final period.
Spain – Russia 15:11 (1:2, 2:5, 5:3, 7:1)
Spain: Granados 4, Delgado 4, Mallarach 3, Munarriz 2, Sanahuja 1, Tahull 1.
Russia: E. Vasilyev 3, Merkulov 3, Bychkov 2, Krug 1, Sheikin 1, Shepelev 1.
Hungary – Croatia 11:13 (2:2, 3:4, 3:3, 3:4)
Hungary: Zalanki 3,Manhercz 3, Vamos 2, Erdelyi 1, Pasztor 1, Konarik 1
Croatia: Bukic 3, Buslje 2, Jokovic 2, Vukicevic 2, Vrlic 1. Fatovic 1, Loncar 1, Obradovic 1.
Russia didn’t manage to upset Spain, although it had a 7:3 lead at halftime. The Spaniards started coming back after the middle break and secured a 15:11 victory with an amazing 7:1 fourth quarter.
Croatia defeated Hungary in the second round and took revenge for two losses in friendly matches played in Sibenik in the previous week (10:12 and 10:15). Hungary led only at the beginning of the game (1:0, 2:1). After that, the Croats dictated the pace, but couldn’t build a big lead. Hungary equalized just once (5:5 in the 16th minute). Early in the third quarter, the Croats went to 8:5. Hungary reduced the gap to 7:8, but it didn’t equalize. In the remaining time, the hosts trailed by a goal or two. Just 36 seconds before the final buzzer, the Hungarians cut the deficit for the last time, from a penalty (11:12). Still, in the last possession, Croatia earned a man-up, which Bukic converted to a goal for the final score (13:11).
Croatia – Russia 21:11 (4:4, 4:2, 6:2, 7:3)
Croatia: Vukicevic 4, Obradovic 3, Loncar 3, Macan 2, Jokovic 2, Bukic 2, Benic 2, Fatovic 1, Milos 1, Lozina 1.
Russia: Kisilev 3 I. Vasilev 2, Bychkov 2, Merkulov 1,E.Vasilev 1, Shepelev 1, Stepanov 1.
Hungary – Spain 11:11 (1:2, 4:2, 2:3, 4:4)
Hungary: Varga 2, Zalanki 2, Pasztor 2, Harai 1, Manhercz 1, Erdelyi 1, Hosnyanszky 1, Vamos 1.
Spain: Granados 4, Perrone 2, Bustos 1, Fernandez 1, Larumbe 1, Tahull 1, Munarriz 1.
Croatia started slowly against Russia, but dominated in the second half and cruised to a 21:11 win to secure 1st place.
The BENU Cup was closed by an exciting match between Hungary and Spain. There were many twists and turns in a replay of the final match of the 2020 European Championship. The lead was constantly changing the side. None of the teams had a 2-goal advantage. Spain started better and led 2:1 after the first quarter. The hosts dictated the pace in the second period and went in front (5:4) before the middle break. In the 22nd minute, Spain regained an advantage (7:6), but Erdelyi closed this period with an action goal to level at 7:7. The fourth quarter was an exchange of goals. The Spaniards took a one-goal lead four times, but Hungary equalized on each occasion. Two minutes before the end, Munarriz converted a penalty for 10:11. Vamos leveled at 11:11 with 45 seconds to go, and Hungary secured 2nd place.
Interestingly, the previous two encounters between Spain and Hungary ended with no winner, too. They faced off twice at the 2020 European Championship in Budapest. The big rivals shared the points in the group stage (11:11). The score in the gold-medal match was 9:9, and Hungary won the gold after a penalty shootout.
Hungary’s coach Tamas Marcz has already selected the Olympic team, but several players who will not travel to Tokyo, also played at the BENU Cup, along with the Olympians. The Hungarians will continue the preparations for the Olympic Games in Budapest and they will travel to Japan on July 16.
Ivica Tucak (Croatia) and David Martin (Spain) still haven’t announced the rosters for the Olympic Games.
The Croats return home from Budapest. After a few days of preparations in Rijeka, they will travel to Italy for a friendly tournament in Cagliari, where they will play against Italy and Montenegro.
Spain continues the “warming up” for Tokyo in Belgrade. Next week, the Spaniards will play at the tournament in Belgrade, with two teams of Serbia (“A” team and the junior national team) and France.