The qualifications for the European Men’s Championships in Israel began as expected – Serbia, Germany, Romania, and the Netherlands started strongly.
The four teams have proved their roles of the favorites to secure top spots in their respective groups.
Serbia kept a clean sheet in its first-ever match in the qualifications for the Europeans, defeating Great Britain 28:0 in Istanbul. Germany dominated Bulgaria (24:3) in Malta. Romania outplayed Switzerland in Kranj (19:9), and the Netherlands had an easy victory against Poland (25:4) in Amersfoort.
The remaining matches have indicated that Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Malta are the contenders for runner-up positions in their groups.
I The winners of the four groups and the best three second-placed teams will qualify for the Europeans in Netanya (January 3 – 16, 2024).
Slovakia is the day’s winner, as it beat Turkey in the derby of the first round in Istanbul – 11:6. The Slovaks probably secured 2nd place with this win. However, only three second-placed teams will advance to the Europeans and Slovakia is in a tough group with Serbia. The Slovaks should avoid a big defeat to Serbia and beat Great Britain convincingly to stay in the race for the European Championships berths.
2024 European Men’s Championships, Qualifications, Day 1
Group A (Amersfoort, Netherlands)
Lithuania – Portugal 9:19 (4:3, 1:5, 1:5, 3:6)
Lithuania: Vitkauskas 2, Blazevic 1, Gostaytas 1, Jakutis 1, Tomasevski 1, Jonkus 1, Galinok 1, Bakulo 1.
Portugal: Ramos 10, P.F.Sousa 4, Parati 2, Teixeira 1, Sobetchi 1, R.P.Sousa 1.
Netherlands – Poland 29:5 (5:1, 7:2, 8:0, 11:2)
Netherlands: Te Riele 6, Winkelhorst 4, Muller 4, Gbadamassi 3, Nispeling 3, Van Ijperen 2, De Mey 2, Koopman 2, Kastrop 1, De Weerd 1, Wolswinkel 1.
Poland:Michalski 2, Ozga 1, Cebo 1, Maciejewski 1.
The Dutch are the favorites in Group A.Before the tournament, the question was which team had the biggest chance of reaching 2nd place.
Portugal dominated Lithuania, showcasing their potential to earn 2nd place and maybe a spot at the Europeans in Israel. Lithuania led 4:3 at the first break, and 5:4 early in the second quarter. But, then Portugal scored six consecutive goals to take a commanding 10:5 lead (the 20th minute). The Portuguese team continued to dominate for the rest of the match, led by Rui Manuel Ramos, who netted ten goals, surpassing the total number of goals the entire Lithuanian team scored. The Portuguese are on a good way. A 10-goal win is encouraging because a goal difference can determine the top three 2nd-placed teams. But, let’s wait to see what Portugal can do against the Netherlands and Poland.
The first goal of the game was scored by Poland in the opening minute. However, the Dutch quickly answered with a series of six goals for 6:1. As the game drew to a close, Poland’s was weaker and weaker, resulting in the Dutch scoring from almost every shot they took in the final quarter.
June 24 Lithuania – Poland (18:30), Netherlands – Portugal (20:30)
Group B (Gzira, Malta)
Germany – Bulgaria 24:3 (5:1, 9:0,4:2, 6:0)
Germany:Chiru 5, Cuk 3, Schuetze 3, Sekulic 3, Schipper 3,Korbel 2, Juengling 2, Bozic 1, Strelezkij 1, Dyck 1.
Bulgaria: Metodiev 1, Donchev 1, Velkov 1.
Malta – Ukraine 14:7 (2:1, 3:0, 5:3, 4:3)
Malta:Muscat 3, Plumpton 3, Cachia 2, Cutajar 2, N.Zammit 2, Gabarretta 1, Galea 1.
Ukraine:Alieksieiev 2, Voitenko 1, Diadiura 1, Dzhura 1, Mametyev 1, Gusakov 1.
Germany easily defeated Bulgaria and took the first step towards qualifying for the European Championships. From the very start, Germany showcased their superiority, not giving Bulgaria any chance to catch up Bulgaria only managed to score a few consolation goals.
Malta started slowly. The hosts scored an opening goal, and Ukraine leveled at 1:1. Malta earned a 2:1 lead. The Ukrainians had another chance to level the score, but they missed a penalty shot. Malta entered the second quarter with a slim 2:1 lead. After the first break, the hosts broke the rival’s resistance with an 8:0 run for a comfortable 10:1 advantage (the 21st minute), securing the three points.
June 24:Bulgaria – Ukraine (18:30), Malta – Germany (19:45)
Group C (Istanbul, Turkey)
Turkey – Slovakia 6:11 (3:1, 1:3, 2:3, 0:4)
Turkey: Oguzan 2, Ozbek 1, Ergin 1, Sonmez 1, Caner 1.
Slovakia: Zatovic 3, Balaz 3, Marek Tkac 2, Caraj 2, Tisaj 1.
Serbia – Great Britain 28:0 (6:0, 6:0, 7:0, 9:0)
Serbia: Lazic 5, Ubovic 4, Vucinic 4, S.Rasovic 4, Dimitrijevic 2, Radulovic 2,Randjelovic 2, Milojevic 2, Drasovic 1, Jaksic 1, Jankovic 1,
Slovakia secured valuable points that will probably be crucial in its chase for 2nd place in the group, beating the hosts in the match that was the day’s derby. Turkey started well, taking a 2:0 and 3:1 lead. However, Slovakia mounted a comeback in the second quarter, scoring three unanswered goals and going in front (4:3). Turkey managed to level the score in the 16th minute. In the middle of the third period, Ozbek gave the hosts a 5:4 lead. But Slovakia, which played without experienced Lucas Seman (the captain until the last year, took control of the game). The Slovaks maintained their pace, while Turkey missed a number of opportunities. The home team had five man-up situations and a penalty shot in the second half but failed to convert any of them.
The Slovaks earned an important win, but a long road is still ahead of them.
In its debut match for the European Championships qualifications, Serbia faced the team where water polo was invented. From the beginning, it was clear that there was a significant difference in quality between the Olympic champions and the British team, who had been absent from the international stage for a decade. Nevertheless, Serbia maintained their pace until the end, scoring 28 goals and not conceding any.
June 24: Slovakia – Serbia (17:00), Turkey – Great Britain (19:00) – local times
Group D (Kranj, Slovenia)
Switzerland – Romania 9:19 (1:5, 2:6, 2:3, 4:5)
Switzerand:Szer 2, M. Milovanovic 2, Dudler 2, Geiser 1, Melet 1, Pleyer 1.
Romania: Georgescu 5, Antipa 4, Lutescu 4, Colodrovschi 2, Bota 1, Rath 1, Gergelyfi 1, Iudean 1.
Slovenia – Finland 25:4 (9:0, 4:0, 4:3, 8:1)
Slovenia:Kadivec 6, Popovic 5, Lah 3, Stefanovic 2, Pevec 2, Paunovic 2, Pusavec 2, Canc 1, Justin 1, Cerar 1.
Finland:Olilla 2, Johansson 1, Sutinen 1.
Romania, a team that hasn’t missed a single European Championships in the 21st century, and Switzerland, which has played at the ECH just once (in 1950), aren’t in the same weight category. The Romanians cruised to a win. The Romanians reached a double-digit margin early in the fourth period (15:5) and maintained the difference until the end, saving energy for the next two games.
Slovenia isn’t a water polo powerhouse but is too strong for Finland. The hosts’ defense was superb in the first half. Finland got on the scoreboard only in the 17th minute. The Scandinavians reduced the gap to 11 in the middle of the third period (2:13). However, Slovenia refound their rhythm from the first half. The hosts played at full speed until the final buzzer, knowing that goal difference may be necessary at the end of the qualifications for the standings of the best three 2nd-placed teams.
June 24: Finland – Romania (19:00), Slovenia – Switzerland (20:40) – local time