After almost ten months of break, the best European national water polo teams are back in action.
The last official match between the national teams before the suspension of the sports competitions caused by the pandemic was played on March 10, 2020. Spain defeated Serbia in the quarterfinals of the World League.
The series of the national teams’ competitions will resume from the same point where it was halted.
The World League will be continued tomorrow in Debrecen. All remaining matches of the European qualifications will be played at a three-day tournament in this Hungarian city.
The top three teams will qualify for the Super Final in Tbilisi (June 26 – July 1).
Two derbies will be played on the opening day of the tournament in Debrecen.
The first one will be an encounter between Montenegro and Croatia. The two neighbors met three times in the last year. Croatia won two games – 11:10 in the 2nd round of the group stage at the European Championship and 14:5 in the friendly game played in June. But, Montenegro celebrated a victory in the most important of the three encounters. The Montenegrins defeated Croatia in the bronze-medal match at the European Championship-10:9.
It seems that Croatia will have the role of favorite tomorrow because the Montenegrins had more problems with injured and ill players than Croatia. But, it’s always hard to predict the outcome of the clash between these two teams.
The tournament in Debrecen isn’t the most important competition for Croatia and Montenegro this winter. The World League Qualifications will be the rehearsal for the Olympic qualifications in Rotterdam in February when they will seek Tokyo tickets.
European champion Hungary and World champion Italy will face off in the second derby of the day. Unlike Montenegro and Croatia, the Hungarians and the Italians have already secured their Olympic berths. For Italy and Hungary, the World League Qualifications will be a kind of rehearsal and test, too. Several key players of both teams miss the tournament: Denes Varga, Marton Vamos, Gergo Zalanki, etc (Hungary), Matteo Aicardi, Pietro Figlioli, Michael Bodegas (Italy)… The matches in Debrecen will be an excellent opportunity for the debutants and the candidates for the national teams to prove themselves.
The winners of the derbies will face off in the semifinals on Saturday.
Greece is a favorite against France. Still, surprises are always possible. The French water polo is continuously growing and improving its quality. France qualified for the quarterfinals thanks to a 15:10 victory over Hungary in Group B. The match was played in February, shortly after the Hungarians won the European gold. But the result isn’t a real criterion for the estimation of the quality of France and Hungary. The Hungarians played with a rejuvenated team, which arrived in France after a long trip. Still, Greece shouldn’t underestimate France. These two teams are in the same positions as Croatia and Montenegro – their main tournament this winter will be the Olympic qualifications in Rotterdam.
There will be one friendly match on Day 1 of the tournament in Debrecen. Spain and Serbia will play each other in tomorrow’s first game. Spain has already qualified for the semifinals, while Serbia will battle for places 5th- 8th.
Both teams arrived in Debrecen with almost all of their key players.
Spain did a great job in Belgrade in March, therefore needs just one victory at the tournament to secure one of the first three places and reach the Final Eight.
Although the Serbs won’t battle for a spot at the Super Final, the upcoming games are important for them. After the tournament in Debrecen, the Olympic champions won’t have a single official match until the Tokyo Olympics. The European Qualification Tournament is the first phase of Serbia’s preparations for Tokyo.
Spain is already qualified for Tokyo, as well as Serbia, Italy, and Hungary. These three teams are also restarting their road to Tokyo with the tournament in Debrecen.
Serbia arrived in Debrecen with 14 players. Two of the regular national team members isn’t on the roster- Milos Cuk and Stefan Mitrovic.
Goalkeepers: Gojko Pijetlovic (Oradea), Branislav Mitrovic (Vasas). Field players: Dusan Mandic (Pro Recco), Nikola Dedovic (Spandau 04), Sava Randjelovic (Vasas), Drasko Gogov (Novi Beograd 011), Filip Filipovic, Dusko Pijetlovic, Radomir Drasovic (all Szolnok), Nemanja Vico (Trieste), , Nikola Jaksic (Ferencvaros), Andrija Prlainovic (Marseille), Viktor Rašović (Noisy-le-Sec), Milan Aleksic (Barceloneta).
The rosters of the other seven teams we published yesterday.
Quarterfinals (January 8)
France – Greece (16.45)
Montenegro – Croatia (18.30)
Italy – Hungary (20.00)
Played in March: Serbia – Spain 11:13 (Spain and Serbia will play each other on January 8, but that will be an unofficial match. It will start at 15.00)
Semifinals (January 9)
For places 1st – 4th
Spain – France or Greece (18.15)
Croatia or Montenegro – Italy or Hungary (20.00)
For places 5th – 8th
Croatia or Montenegro – Italy or Hungary (14.45)
Serbia – France or Greece (16.30)
Matches for the final rankings 1st – 8th places (January 10)
For 7th place (14.45)
For 5th place (16.30)
For 3rd place (18.15)