Spain’s male water polo team has had an excellent season this summer.
Early in July, the Spaniards beat Italy in the big final in Budapest and returned to the throne of the water polo world after 21 years. Several weeks after, they clinched bronze in the World League, playing with a rejuvenated team.
The European Championships in Split may be the crown of a great season. Before the tournament, we didn’t ask Spain’s head coach David Martin about expectations and objectives. His answer to that question before the World League was clear – “Spain always plays the competitions to win”, he told us then. Nothing has changed regarding this topic.
We asked David to compare the quality of the World and the European Championships. Many coaches and players say that the Europeans will be a stronger tournament than the World Championships because there will be more teams that might surprise seven big favorites.
“It’s true that many coaches think the same, but I think that this depends on the moment of the teams. In fact, there are teams like the USA, Australia, or Japan that are much stronger than some European teams, and we can’t forget that Russia will not play in this tournament. It is true that the European Championship was a more difficult competition than the Worlds in the past. But at this moment, I have my doubts, David Martin told Total Waterpolo.
After the draw for the Europeans, many said that Spain was the winner of the draw. At first sight and considering tradition and results in the past, Spain is in the easiest group in the Preliminary Stage. The world champions’ rivals will be Germany, the Netherlands and Romania. Spain is the only of the mentioned big European seven in Group C. Does that fact suit you? Would you like more demanding opponents in the first phase as preparation for the knockout stage?
“The draw cannot be changed, and we must adapt. We are indeed the favorites in the group, but Spain always has a lot of respect for their rivals. Romania and Germany are making a generational change with new coaches and building their teams. The Netherlands will be a tough opponent. They have been working well in the last few years, as they have shown with their youth team in Belgrade (4th place at the World U18 Championships – Ed). They have done well during the preparation. Spain’s goal is to win first place playing at our level and go to the second week of the Championships well prepared.”
Last week, Spain beat Germany and lost to Montenegro at the three-nation tournament. How do you comment on these results and the play of your team? Are you satisfied with the shape of the team?
“This summer has been very hard for the players because we are not used to such long periods with the national team. The preparation for the European Championship is very hard, and the team is still not 100% in shape. In the tournament in Germany, we have not been at our level, but it is part of the training process. I am convinced that the team will arrive in Split well prepared.”
Do you feel additional pressure because you are coming to Split as the world champion? Many consider Spain as a favorite No 1.
“The internal pressure and ambition of this team have always been great. Many people considered us the big favorite in Budapest and the team responded. So, I don’t think that the situation will change much. As I said before, Spain has a lot of respect for all our rivals, and we know that if we don’t play at our best level, we won’t have a chance to be in the fight for the medals.”
Spain without left-hander in Split
Because of a long and tiring summer season, some of the favorites won’t arrive with all their key players in Split. Spain isn’t an exception. Some of the players who missed the World League are back, but Martin won’t count on all regular members of the team.
“For the first time in recent years, Spain will play a major competition without a left-hander. Blai Mallarach is going to rest during this championship. The team will have to learn how to play without this compliment. On the other hand, we incorporate players who have shown a high level in Strasbourg. Players as Perrone, Munarriz, Larumbe and Granados have had more rest and will return to the team, Martin said.
Spain’s roster – Goalkeepers: Unai Aguirre (Barceloneta), Edu Lorrio (Sabadell). Field players: Alejandro Bustos, Miguel de Toro, Martin Famera, Alvaro Granados, Marc Larumbe, Alberto Munarriz, Felipe Perrone (all Barceloneta), Fran Valera,Sergi Cabanas, Bernat Sanahuja (all Sabadell), Nikolas Paul (Sant Andreu), Roger Tahull (Barcelona in the past season, Barceloneta in the season 2022/23), Alberto Barroso (Terrassa).