The first big challenge for the best European national teams in a competitions-packed 2022 season will start tomorrow.
Between Thursday and Saturday (April 28 – 30), the final tournament of the European qualifications (Final Eight) for the World League Super Final will be held in Podgorica.
Eight teams will seek the remaining three available tickets for the Super Final (Strasburg, July 23 – 29). Team USA, Australia, Brazil, and Canada qualified for the Super Final as the best four teams at the Intercontinental Cup. France, which will play in Podgorica, already secured a Super Final berth as the host.
Undoubtedly, the best European teams arrive in Podgorica.
Seven of the eight quarterfinalists of the Tokyo Olympics qualified for the European WL Final Eight – Serbia (gold), Greece (silver), Hungary (bronze), Spain (4th place), Croatia (5th place), Italy (7th place) and Montenegro (8th place). The Americans won 6th place in Tokyo. France will “replace” them in Podgorica.
However, the comparison between the Tokyo Olympics and the tournament in Podgorica is irrelevant.
Many water polo stars retired from their national teams after the 2020 Olympic Games. Six players of the team of Serbia said goodbye after winning the Olympic gold. Croatia left without five players. Hungary, Spain, Greece, Montenegro, and Italy also rejuvenated their squads. Besides, a few experienced players will miss the tournament in Podgorica because their head coaches gave them a rest in the middle of the packed season or for other reasons. For instance, Hungary’s aces Denes Varga and Balazs Harai won’t play in Podgorica. Ioannis Fountoulis and goalkeeper Emannouil Zerdevas aren’t on Greece’s roster.
(More about the rosters at the end of the article)
Hungary starts without Tamas Marcz; Kharkov debuts for Croatia
Hungary will start the tournament without head coach Tamas Marcz, who tested positive for Covid on Tuesday and couldn’t travel to Montenegro today. He will undergo testing again, and if the sample is negative, Marcz will join the team on Friday.
There will be many debutants at major competitions. Among them is a player who had a great experience and was the best scorer at the 2020 European Championship. Konstantin Kharkov, a former member of the Russian national team, will play his first match for Croatia.
So, the European Final Eight will be an excellent opportunity for younger players to prove their potential and quality.
There are no favorites and outsiders
Almost every quarterfinal duel will be a derby, and it is hard to predict which teams will advance to the semifinals.
The game between Croatia and Italy opens the tournament. Hungary and Spain, the 3rd-placed and 4th-placed teams in Tokyo, will face off in the 2nd game. Host Montenegro, which won the gold in the 2020/21 World League, will play against France. The quarterfinal day ends with a replay of the Olympic final, Serbia – Greece.
As the host and the title-holder, only Montenegro might be considered a favorite in the quarterfinals. However, few experts would agree with this view. Montenegro has been rejuvenated. On the other side, France isn’t an underdog. In the last few years, the French have proven that they have become a part of a circle of the best European teams. After all, they didn’t qualify for the Final Eight accidentally. They upset Spain and beat Germany in the group phase of the World League Qualifiers. Montenegro will have a demanding task tomorrow against the team that has no pressure and already is qualified for the Super Final.
All in all, exciting games are in sight.
The games will be played in the indoor pool “Moraca”.
Total Waterpolo Arena will cover the tournament in Podgorica. Visit the page World League, European Qualifications F8 for the schedule, live scoring, and statistics.
Thursday, April 28, quarterfinals
15:00: Croatia – Italy (Game 1) – Follow live on Total Waterpolo Arena
17:00 Hungary – Spain (Game 2) – Follow live on Total Waterpolo Arena
19:00 Montenegro – France (Game 3) – Follow live on Total Waterpolo Arena
21:00 Serbia – Greece (Game 4) – Follow live on Total Waterpolo Arena
Friday, April 29, semifinals
15:00 Losers Game 2 – Game 4
17:00 Losers Game 1 – Game 3
1st – 4th place
19:00 Winners Game 3 – Game 1
21:00 Winners Game 2 – Game 4
Saturday, April 30
15:00 7th-place match
17:00 5th-place match
19:00 3rd-place match
All times are local (CET)
Each team can come to Podgorica with up to 15 players. But, only 13 can be on a scoresheet.
Croatia – Goalkeepers: Marko Bijac (Olympiacos), Ivan Marcelic (Jadran Split). Field players: Josip Vrlic (Radnicki), Ivan Krapic (Noisy-le-Sec), Luka Bukic, Jerko Marinic Kragic, Konstantin Kharkov, Rino Buric (all Jadran Split), Loren Fatovic, Hrvoje Benic, Marko Zuvela (all Jug), Ante Vukicevic (Marseille), Ivan Domagoj Zovic, Kristijan Milakovic (both Szolnok), Franko Lazic (Mladost). Head coach: Ivica Tucak.
France – Goalkeepers: Hugo Fontani (Strasbourg), Arshak Hovhannisyan (Marseille). Field players: Mehdi Marozuki, David Caumette, Remi Saudadier (all Noisy-le-Sec), Ugo Crousillat, Tomas Vernoux, Romain Marion-Vernoux, Alexandre Bouet, Mathias Olivon (all Marseille), Charles Canonne (Tourcoing), Edo Khasz (Pays d’Aix), Logan Piot (Montpellier), Andrea De Nardi (Nice). Head coach: Florian Bruzzo.
Greece – Goalkeepers: Panagiotis Tzortzatos, Costas Limarakis. Field players: Konstantinos Genidounias, Costas Gouvis, Konstantinos Gkiouvetsis, Ioannis Alafragkis, Dimitris Skoumpakis, Manolis Solanakis, Alexandros Papanastasiou, Costas Kakaris, Stelios Argyropoulos, Dimitris Nikolaidis, Nikos Gkillas, Dimitris Dimou. Head coach: Theodoros Vlachos.
Hungary – Goalkeepers: Marton Levai (OSC), Soma Vogel (Ferencvaros). Field players: Daniel Angyal, Akos Konarik, Adam Nagy (all Szolnok), Balazs Erdelyi, Tamas Mezei (Vasas), Gergo Fekete, Szilard Jansik, Toni Nemet, Marton Vamos, Vendel VIgvari (all Ferencvaros), Gergely Burian, Krisztian Manhercz (OSC), Gergo Zalanki (Pro Recco). Head coach: Tamas Marcz (Zsolt Nemeth will guide the team if Tamas Marcz has to stay in Hungary and doesn’t get a negative Covid test).
Italy – Goalkeepers: Marco Del Lungo (Pro Recco), Pierre Pellegrini (Iren Genova Quinto). Field players: Edoardo Di Somma, Vincenzo Dolce (both Brescia), Francesco Condemi, Simone Rossi (both Ortigia), Francesco Di Fulvio, Nicholas Presciutti, Giacomo Cannella, Gonzalo Oscar Echenique (all Pro Recco), Luca Damonte (Ferencvaros), Lorenzo Bruni, Andrea Fondelli, Matteo Iocchi Gratta (all Savona), Luca Marziali (Telimar). Head coach: Alessandro Campagna.
Montenegro – Goalkeepers: Dejan Lazovic (Marseille), Petar Tesanovic (Brescia). Field players: Uros Cuckovic, Vladan Spaic (both Marseille), Marko Petkovic, Uros Vucurovic, Vasilije Radovic, (all Jadran HN), Dusan Matkovic, Marko Mrsic, Aljosa Macic (all Primorac), Bogdan Djurdjic (Crvena Zvezda), Aleksa Ukropina (Radnicki), Miroslav Perkovic (Novi Beograd), Vlado Popadic (Pays d’Aix) , Dusan Banicevic (Sabadell). Head coach: Vladimir Gojkovic.
Serbia – Goalkeepers: Branislav Mitrovic (Vasas), Lazar Dobozanov (Radnicki). Field players: Sava Randjelovic (Vasas),Djordje Lazic (Brescia), Nikola Dedovic (Spandau 04), Dusan Mandic, Nikola Jaksic, Strahinja Rasovic, Viktor Rasovic, Drasko Gogov, Radomir Drasovic (all Novi Beograd), Marko Radulovic, Luka Pljevancic (both Radnicki), Ognjen Stojanovic (Sabac), Nemanja Vico (Partizan). Head coach: Dejan Savic.
Spain – Goalkeepers: Unai Aguirre (Barceloneta), Eduardo Lorrio (Barcelona), Field players: Miguel de Toro, Alberto Munarriz, Alvaro Granados, Marc Larumbe, Felipe Perrone, Martin Famera, Alex Bustos, Oscar Asensio (all Barceloneta), Sergi Cabanas, Bernat Sanahuja (both Sabadell), Alberto Barroso (Terrassa), Roger Tahull (Barcelona), Niko Paul (Sant Andreu). Head coach: David Martin.