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Medal Fight Front Runners

Favourites for the World Title

Brush up on your international Water polo knowledge with our brief overview of the trophy frontrunners. Know what to expect, who to look out for and which games to tape during the upcoming Water polo World Championships in Budapest. Big Thank you to Catrinel Oprisiu for sharing her insight and providing us with this great article.

Just a few days remain until the start of the biggest sporting event in history, Hungary has ever hosted.

After two European Championships held on Margaret Island in 2001 and 2014, Budapest is finally hosting the FINA World Championships at the same venues for the first time.

The Men’s and Women’s Water polo tournaments will be played starting on the 16th of July with the women’s matches and one day later with the men matches. Both at the male and female Water polo tournaments will have 16 teams competing against each other.

The final of the women’s tournament will be held on the 28th of July, the men’s tournament will finish on the 29th of July at the Alfréd Hajós Swimming Stadium. You can see the schedule here.



Defending Olympic and World champions, the Serbian men’s Water polo team is the favorite to beat at the 17th FINA World Championships once again. At this year’s World League Super Final at Ruza, Serbia has continued its successes by winning the fifth World League trophy and its 11th overall gold medal in the series.

Therefore, the Serbian players are definitely going to Budapest to prolong their incredible streak of international victories, even though their former impeccable game showed some weaknesses at the last World League Superfinal.

In Budapest, Serbia will have almost the same roster of players who triumphed at the Olympic Games in Brazil 2016. Retired players, Slobodan Nikić and former captain Živko Gocić, will be replaced by Nemanja Ubović and Viktor Rašović, who both already played at Ruza this year. With the return of Dušan Mandić to the team, who was overcoming an earlier injury, their coach Dejan Savić hopes to reach the top at the World Championship.



Italy seems to be one of the principal candidates for the title in Budapest. In Ruza, the Settebello lost the gold medal just two minutes before the last whistle after beating the Olympic gold medalist from 2012, as well as former World Cup vice champion Croatia in the semi-finals.

For the upcoming competition, Sandro Campagna presented 10 of 13 players who reached the Olympic bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro last August. In Hungary, we will not see Stefano Tempesti and Christian Presciutti, who gave their farewell to the blue caps after the last Olympics. Compared to the team seen in Russia, Campagna operates a change, re-entering Nicholas Presciutti, one of the protagonists in Rio, instead of Christian Mirarchi. With Marco del Lungo in great shape providing great safety for the team during defense, Italy can rely on the experience of players like Gallo, Figlioli and Bodegas, as well as on the speed and ferocity of young players like Di Fulvio, Velotto or Renzuto.



Another candidate for the world title is definitely Croatia. Bronze medalist at the World League Super Final in Ruza, Croatia will enter the world championships in the Hajós Alfréd Swimming Stadium with a relatively fresh squad to try and exceed their achievements of the last world championship in Kazan.

Croatia is the only national team, that won medals at the previous 5 world championships. They became World champions in Melbourne in 2007, they won a silver medal in Kazan 2015 and bronze medals in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

The players of coach Ivica Tucak will have to enter the pool in Budapest knowing that they must bring their A-game to exceed their performance at the previous world championships. The Olympic silver medallist will have water polo superstar Sandro Sukno back in the team, who recovered from his injury, ready to give his opponents a headache.



While they may not be considered a favorite for winning the world title, Spain’s National Team will definitely pose a great threat to many opponents, as they could fight their way to a place on the podium. Their attractive, flowing and swim-heavy game due to their agile wings Mallarach, Espanol and Munnariz, considered to be the next big star by many, will be a tough nut to crack even with the absence of Enchenique, who is pausing on the international stage this season in order to play for Italy next year.



Even though they arrive at Budapest with a new generation Montenegro’s Team should not be missing on the podium candidate list. Vladimir Gojković made 7 changes in the team after some big names retired and took a one year break. Stars like Alexander Ivović, Vjekoslav Pasković, Antonio Petrović, Mlađan Janović, Predrag Jokić and Zdravko Radić will not be playing at Budapest this year.

In the roster, we will see players like the center of Steaua Bucharest, Nikola Murišić or the two youngsters from Jadran: 18 year old lefthander Đuro Radović and defender Bojan Baničević, 24 years. Just 3 players from the former generation remain in the team: Aleksandar Radović and the Brguljan Brothers Draško and Darko.



Hungary will definitely be fighting for a medal. The team of Tamás Märcz will play at home with big pressure as the host, but even bigger help from their home supporters. With the passionate Hungarian crowd in their backs, they will try to play at the top of their game.
Hungary will enter the event with two Olympic Champions, Norbert Hosnyánszky and Dénes Varga, as well as another eight  World Champions from Barcelona, 2013. The team of Tamás Märcz features Viktor Nagy, Krisztián Manhercz or Márton Vámos, all players that can single-handedly make a big difference during each game.



Greece has proven their ability to go deep into each tournament, what makes them a force to be reckoned with. Thodoris Vlachos’s team will be highly motivated, uncompromising, and difficult to beat.



After 25 years, we can mark their return to the international field of Water polo. The French team, who are about to enter the 17th FINA World Championships, do so for the fourth time in history.
They first attended the tournament in Guayaquilben 1982, Ecuador, then they participated in the following two tournaments, after which they disappeared from the international stage.
Men’s water polo in France is developing and improving rapidly which was demonstrated by their qualification for the Olympics as well as their participation in the European Championships in Belgrade last year.
Many think that the French team may cause a big surprise as an underdog –  their biggest difficulty being the strength of the teams in their group stage.



This young team, which has gathered at the training camps leading up to the world championship for the first time, impresses with their ferocity and swimming agility. Their coach Elvis Fatović has the great task to attune the players to each other and to lead them to the quarterfinals with the help of this year’s Champions League winner Aaron Younger. Anything past that would be considered a surprise.



The US team, made up entirely from top players of their national league, has shown that they can go the distance at this year’s World League Super Final, where they fought Serbia in the semifinals to a draw, only to lose in the penalty shoot out. They can definitely reach the quarter-finals with their fierce, disciplined and agile gameplay and their formidable coach Dejan Udovičić.

Who else will be able to play a big role at this year’s Fina World Championships in Budapest? Check out the whole tournament schedule here and make sure to not miss a single match – Total Waterpolo will be delivering you full blown coverage for everything happening inside and outside of the pool.

World Cup Warm Up Series

This commentary is part of our World Cup Warm Up Series, where we talk about the upcoming World Championships in Budapest.
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