The long water polo summer begins tomorrow with the first matches of the qualifications for the European Championships in Netanya next year.
Thirty teams will take part, and 15 will qualify for the tournament that will take place in January (3 – 16).
Some teams will debut in the qualifications and some will return to the stage after several years of absence. One debutant and at least one returnee will pose significant dangers for their opponents.
2024 European Men’s Championships (Netanya), Qualifications (June 23 – 25)
GROUP A (Amersfoort,Netherlands): Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal.
GROUP B (Gzira, Malta): Germany, Malta, Ukraine, Bulgaria.
GROUP C (Istanbul, Turkey): Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, Great Britain.
GROUP D (Kranj, Slovenia): Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland.
Alread qualified: Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Montenegro, Georgia (the top 8 at the 2022 Europeans) and Israel (host)
I The top four teams from each group and the best three second-placed teams will qualify for the Europeans . The points gained at the tournament will be the first criteria in determining the top three second-placed team. In case of a tie, the goal-difference will be used to determine the teams that will get a chance to compete in Israel in 2024.
Battles for seven available spots will be interesting, but all eyes are on Group C, where a debutant plays. That’s the debutant we wrote about in the intro of the article.
Olympic champion Serbia will make its first-ever appearance in the qualifications for the Europeans. Since its independence, Serbia has never played in the qualifications. But after 9th place in Split last year, the Serbs had to find their European Championships berth in qualifiers. Everyone falls, but what matters is if you get back. Serbia started returning to the circle of the best teams in the world this winter by qualifying for the World Cup Final in Los Angeles. Now, it wants to continue in the same and better way.
The Serbs are, of course, strong favorites, but they don’t underestimate their opponents. The tournament in Istanbul is the first step on long this summer’s road. They say they don’t know much about the opponents. However, if they show their best, they will finish atop.
Turkey, coached by Serb Dejan Jovovic and Slovakia, will battle for 2nd place, which doesn’t guarantee a European Championships berth. Great Britain, which hasn’t played at the Europeans since 1993, when it was host, returns to the stage after several years of absence and is an underdog.
Let’s see who plays in other groups.
The Netherlands, a regular participant in the Europeans for years, will be playing on their home field in Group A, and is expected to qualify for Israel with no big difficulties. It will be interesting to see which of the three remaining teams, Lithuania, Poland, and Portugal, will come closest to securing 2nd place. Notably, Lithuania and Poland have never competed in the ECH, and Poland’s previous appearance dates back to the 1991 Championships.
The Germans should have an easy ride in Malta to 1st place in Group B in Malta. The hosts will probably be the toughest opponents to the Germans, but these two teams met recently in World Cup Division 1, and Germany recorded a convincing 15:5 victory.
Group D in Kranj has Romania as the clear favorite, but Slovenia has been improving steadily and could cause an upset, securing their second consecutive appearance at the European tournament. Switzerland and Finland will likely compete for 3rd place.
Day 1, Schedule
Group A: Lithuania – Portugal (18:30), Netherlands – Poland (20:30)
Group B: Germany – Bulgaria (18:30), Malta – Ukraine (19:45)
Group C: Turkey – Slovakia (17:00), Serbia – Great Britain (19:00)
Group D: Switzerland – Romania (19:00), Slovenia – FInland (20:40)
All times are local.
3 Three teams will be heading to the USA after the qualifications to play at the World Cup FInal. Besides Serbia, Romania and Germany, as the best two teams in Division 2, qualified for the Final Eight in Los Angeles.
2024 European Women’s Championships (Netanya), Qualifications (June 23 – 25)
GROUP A (Burgas, Bulgaria): Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria,
GROUP B (Otopeni, Romania): Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Sweden.
GROUP C (Novi Sad, Serbia): Serbia, Ukraine, Czech Republic,
GROUP D (Rio Maior, Portugal): Germany , Portugal, Finland, Great Britain.
Already qualified: Spain, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Israel, France, Croatia.
I Since Israel, the host of the 2024 Europeans, was among the top 8 in Split, all group winners and 2nd-placed teams will qualify.
As for the women, there are not so many high hurdles for the favorites, especially because eight teams will qualify and 13 will participate.
The tournament in Group D should offer the most exciting games.
We mentioned that one returnee could pose a big danger to the rivals. That’s Great Britain.
The Brits haven’t participated in international competitions for a long, and because of that, they were in the lowest, fourth poth of the draw. But Great Britain recently proved it had a good and well-prepared team. Last week, Great Britain won 1st place in the preparation tournament in Szentes, finishing ahead of Germany, Romania, and Serbia (the teams that won 10th, 11th, and 9th place, respectively, at the 2022 Europeans). Great Britain beat Germany 9:4 in the final in Szentes (the Germans recorded a narrow 12:11 victory in the group stage).
Germany will play in Rio Maior, too, so a replay of the Szentes final will be the derby of this group. They will face off already tomorrow.
Slovakia is a serious contender for the top spot in Group A. Whoever finishes 2nd, will make history because neither Malta nor Bulgaria has played at the Europeans so far.
Less than a week after the end of the World U20 Championships in Otopeni, a new tournament will be held in the pool in Bucharest’s suburb. Romania will host Switzerland, Turkey and Sweden in Group B. The hosts are targeting 1st place, while it is difficult to predict who has the biggest chance to join them.
Serbia shouldn’t have big problems in qualifying from Group C, where it will play against Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
Day 1, Schedule
Group A: Bulgaria – Malta (19:00).
Group B: Turkey – Switzerland (17:00), Romania – Sweden (18:30)
Group C: Ukraine – Czech Republic (18:00)
Group D: Portugal – Finland (18:00), Germany – Great Britain (19:30)
All times are local.