All favorites cleared the first hurdle at the beginning of the track in the men’s tournament at the European Water Polo Championships in Barcelona. Though Italy’s 14-1 downing of Germany stood out on an opening day.
Germany was on the verge to finish a match at a major tournament without scoring a goal for the first time since 1976 when they lost to Hungary 4-0 at the Olympics in Montreal. That time the games lasted 4×5 minutes, though, and now their drought lasted much longer as they scored their only goal against Italy with 1:13 remaining from the match, after 30:47 minutes. Italy’s defense worked brilliantly, limited their rivals to 24 shots, Marco del Luongo posted 16 saves on 17 attempts (94.1%).
While it was a convincing opening from the Italians before the big clash with Hungary in the next round, the Magyars struggled a bit for a while against Georgia. Early in the third, the favorites led only 5-4 and with 2:45 to go in the penultimate period Hungary was just 7-5 up. Then switching gears and lifting the level of concentration helped them to stage a 5-0 rush in the remaining time and gaining a fine win after all.
Montenegro also had some minor headaches against France despite taking an early 3-0 lead. The French came back from time to time, with 1:55 to go they cut their deficit to 7-6 but Alexandar Ivovic’s great action goal closed down the contest.
Title-holder Serbia did a clean job against Romania without burning too much energy, and the world champion Croats did the same in their encounter with the Netherlands. Greece thrashed the Turks by 26 goals, Russia downed Slovakia convincingly and host Spain enjoyed an easy cruising against Malta.
Vladimir Gojkovic, head coach, Montenegro:
“It’s the very much the beginning of the championships. We started off well but then missed a lot of shots. Later in the game, we pulled through. It did cost us a bit more physically from what we had expected but we remained focused until the end.”
Nenad Vukanic, head coach, France:
“We gave our best in the game. We went into the game wanting to play an even match for as much as we can. We aren’t just passers-by at the Europeans we want to learn and grow. The result? Well, it’s bittersweet… What I can say is that I am very satisfied with the team as a whole, their approach to the match and how bravely they played.”
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Greece:
“What can I say… Two very different teams. We already have our minds on the next game against the Netherlands. We want to be ready and prepared for the tough clashes ahead. We will do our best to get secure the best position in our group.”
Sinan Turunc, head coach, Turkey:
“This game was not balanced, such a heavy-weight against a light-weight rival. At the same time, we still need to learn many basic things when it comes to tactics. The lack of experience harmed us because we are the youngest team in this tournament. I hope that during the two weeks we are gaining enough experience and know-how in order to achieve decent results. My team is young and needs time to make it to the highest level, but I believe that after two more tournaments we will be in good shape.”
Tamas Marcz, head coach, Hungary:
“A typical opening game where our rival played a bit more aggressively in the first part, at a level perhaps we were supposed to play. We created many chances but missed our shots for two and a half, three periods, still, it was in the air that sooner or later the gap will grow. I smelled that, the players smelled that and at the end, it turned into a game we foresaw. Now our eyes and minds on our next match against Italy, it’s going to a super fight right from the beginning, we have to be ready from the very first moment.”
Revaz Chomakhidze, head coach, Georgia:
“We played against a much better team. This is not the best we can do but there were some things we managed to fulfill, especially at the beginning we did OK. It’s just the 1st game of the Europeans. I hope we will grow as the tournament progresses.”
Konstantin Kharkov, player, Russia:
“It was a good game and I really like this swimming pool in Barcelona. We are also happy to win against Slovakia because they are a very good team, but today we were stronger.”
Petar Nizny, head coach, Slovakia:
“We didn’t score the goals we should have. It’ s a problem if we can’ t score in man-up situations. We absolutely have to improve that part of our game. I can’t remember exactly but it was something like 2 for 11. If we cannot improve that, we simply won’t do well at this Championships.”
Ivica Tucak, head coach, Croatia:
“We deserved to win. It’s always difficult to start the tournament with a victory no matter who your opponent is. We had some difficulties but all in all, it was a routine win for us. We now move forward towards the next match.”
Harmen Muller, player, Netherlands:
“This is a really nice venue, the organization is excellent, we are staying in a nice hotel, and the weather is good; so everything has been great so far. Regarding the match, it was hard and we played against the world champions. We expected to have a hard match before the kickoff and unfortunately, we lost, but we have to keep our focus as we have more games left in this tournament.”
Alessandro Campagna, head coach, Italy:
“We played a good defense. It was the first game of the Championships and as always it’s cardinal to start with a win. The result isn’t surprising. We are now focused on the next game which is very important to us.”
Hagen Stamm, head coach, Germany:
“We scored one goal, it was not enough, but at least it wasn’t zero… The difference at the end of the game doesn’t reflect the course of the game, the difference shouldn’t have been that much. In general, the competition is wonderful. The venue is great, but unfortunately, our game wasn’t.”
Dejan Savic, head coach, Serbia:
“Typical opening of a big event. We can be satisfied with our performance, especially in defense. We are tired, the legs feel heavy because we came a bit early to Barcelona and have been training hard for the last four days. We are using these games as training matches. To be honest, we know we’re surely advancing into the quartets and are timing our top performance for July 24th when it matters the most.”
Dejan Stanojevic, head coach, Romania:
“It might sound strange but when a team like Romania faces Serbia – and this might not be in the sport’s spirit – deep down in their minds the players know they’re going to lose. We are a young team, seven players are rookies at this level of water polo competitions. What matters is that they use this opportunity to fulfill tasks and to improve themselves with each game.”
David Martin, head coach, Spain:
“We are happy to have made our debut. The first game is always an important test. This will be a tough tournament of the highest level in which we will have to overcome many obstacles. We knew that the game against Malta wouldn’t be hard, so now we are fully focused on our next match which is against France. It is a team that is getting better and we will have to be at our best that day.”
Karl Izzo, head coach, Malta:
“Well, I mean it’s tough to play this kind of matches. However, we didn’t surrender in advance. We tried to attack but missed many extra men which then Spain used for counterattacking successfully. Spain is a very fast team. Still, we didn’t expect to lose with such a big difference. To sum it up, we are here to learn and grow with every game.”
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