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Gwangju 2019 preview (part III): Hungary and Spain in a hunt for 1st place in Group C and for medals

Two strong European teams and two squads that haven’t big chances to secure themselves spots among top 8 teams will play in Group C of the men’s tournament at the 18th World Championships in Gwangju. Hungary and Spain will be in battle for the first place. Besides them, South Africa and New Zealand are in the group.



Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: silver
2018 World League: silver
2018 World Cup: gold
2019 World League: 5th place
(European competitions – 2018 European Championships: 8th place; 2018 Europa Cup 6th place; 2019 Europa Cup: gold)

The Hungarians have had a lot of ups and downs in the last year and a half. They won the silver in the World League and the gold in the World Cup last year, but between these two competitions, they finished 8th at the European Championships.

Hungary opened this season by taking the gold in the Europa Cup and it was 5th in the World League in Belgrade last month.

The World League was Hungary head coach Tamas Marcz’s experiment. The Hungarians played with the “B” team in Belgrade. But, despite that fact, they beat Spain in the Group Stage (15:12 after penalty shootout).

Only one of the guys who competed at the World League Super Final (Bence Batori) is in the selection which will represent Hungary in Gwangju. The best Hungarian players are back in the team. They are led by Denes Varga, who was voted the MVP of the Europa Cup Final Eight and he received the same prize at the Champions League F8 in Hannover, where Ferencvaros won the title. Besides Varga, seven members of the national team play for Ferencvaros (including Gergo Zalnaki, who moved to “Fradi” from Szolnok this summer), the rest are Szolnok’s and OSC’s players.

Everything but the semifinals will be a non-success for the Hungarians. Denes Varga thinks that his team isn’t the biggest favorite for the gold medal:

Denes Varga: “I wouldn’t consider us to be the favorites”

Photo: Madar David/MVLSZ

Hungary’s last preparation tournament was the BENU Cup in Budapest. The Hungarians won the first place, by beating all three rivals – France (14:6), Netherlands (13:8) and Greece (8:7).

Goalkeepers: Viktor Nagy (Szolnok), Soma Vogel (Ferencvaros). Field players: Bence Batori (Szolnok), Balazs Harai (OSC), Daniel Angyal (Szolnok), Szilard Jansik (Ferencvaros), Tamas Mezei (Ferencvaros), Krisztian Manhercz (OSC), Zoltan Pohl (Ferencvaros), Tamas Sedlmayer (Ferencvaros), Denes Varga (Ferencvaros), Marton Vamos (Ferencvaros), Gergo Zalanki (Ferencvaros). Head coach: Tamas Marcz.


Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: 9th place
2018 World League: bronze
2018 World Cup: did not qualify
2019 World League: 4th place
(European competitions – 2018 European Championships silver; 2018 Europa Cup: silver; 2019 Europa Cup: bronze).

The golden era of Spanish water polo was the last decade of the 20th century and the opening years of the 21st century. The Spaniards were Olympic champions in 1996 and clinched two gold medals at the World Championships (1998 and 2001).

In the past ten years, Spain has never been the strong favorite for the gold in FINA and LEN competitions, but the team, led by a coach David Martin, proved that it could beat any rival. Silver and bronze medals in the past two years weren’t surprises.

Felippe Perrone, one of the most popular water polo players in the world (winner of the Total Player Award for 2018), has been the biggest star in the team for years. But, he isn’t lonely. Spain has a lot of high-class players: Mallarach, Tahull, Larumbe, Granados…Most of the members of the national team play for Barceloneta, the most successful Spanish team in the 21st century.

Before the trip to Asia, Spain won the trophy at the tournament in Portugalete. The Spaniards, the hosts of the competition, recorded three wins – against Italy (14:12), Netherlands (12:7), and France (13:7).


Goalkeepers: Daniel Lopez-Pinedo (Zodiac CNA Barceloneta), Eduardo Lorrio (CN Barcelona Vista). Field players: Alberto Munarriz, Marc Larumbe, Alejandro Bustos, Francisco Fernandez, Roger Tahull, Felipe Perrone, Alvaro Granados, Blai Mallarach (all CNA Barceloneta), Miguel de Toro (CE Mediterrani), Sergi Cabanas (Astralpool CN Sabadell), Alberto Barroso (CN Terrassa). Head coach: David Martin.

South Africa

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: 16th place
2018 World League: did not participate
2018 World Cup: 8th place
2019 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage

South African water polo team is still far away from the best world teams. It has competed at all water polo championships since 2005, but their greatest achievement was the 12th place (Kazan 2015). Nobody expects that South Africa can advance to the quarterfinals in Gwangju.

Goalkeepers: Lwazi Madi, Keegan Clark. Field players: Etienne le Roux, Liam Neill, Nicholas Rodda, Nardus Badenhorst, Mark Spencer, Dylan Cronje, Timothy Rezelman, Ethan Baker, Jason Evezard, Sven van Zyl, Donn Stewart. Head coach: Paul Martin.

New Zealand

Results in FINA’s competitions since 2017 World Championships
2017 World Championships: did not qualify
2018 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage
2018 World Cup: did not qualify
2019 World League: eliminated in Preliminary Stage

New Zealand is, as well as South Africa, the underdog. The “Kiwis” will try to reach the 3rd place in the group in the match against the Africans. Hungary and Spain aren’t in the same weight class as New Zealand and South Africa.

New Zealand will take part at the World Championships for the 7th time. In the previous six appearances, they finished in the last, 16th place five times, while they were 15th in 2007.

Goalkeepers: Sid Dymond (Waitakere), Bae Fountain (Tauranga). Field players: Matthew Bryant (Hutt), Sean Bryant (Hutt), Louis Clark (Canterbury), Matthew Lewis (Marist), Sean Newcombe (Waitakere), Rowan Brown (North Harbour), Ryan Pike (Marist), Joshua Potaka (Marist), Matthew Small (Marist), Nicholas Stankovich (Waitakere), Anton Sunde (Waitakere). Head coach: Davor Carevic.

Interesting fact

-The Hungarians were the 1st world champions, in Belgrade 1973. They won 3 gold medals (1973,2003, 2013), 7 silver(1975, 1978, 1982, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2017) and 1 bronze medal (1991).

-Spain has 2 gold medals (1998 and 2001). The Spaniards were runners-up three times (1991, 1994, 2009) and they have 1 bronze (2007).

-Only Spain and Yugoslavia managed to win two gold medals at the WCH in a row. Yugoslavia became the champion for the first time in 1986 and retained the title in 1991. Spain was the best in 1998 and in 2001.

-Joseph Kayes, one of Pro Recco’s key players, was born in New Zealand in 1991. He played for the national team a few seasons. He moved to Australia in 2009. Kayes obtained the Australian citizenship six years later and since 2016 he has been playing for Australia.

For more information about the Water Polo World Championship in Gwangju 2019 visit our tournament page or follow our social media channels – FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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