The powerhouse quartet of European women’s water polo – Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Greece – have all booked their places into thursdays women’s European Championship semi-finals.
There were no real suprises, with the four semi-finalists from the last European Championships making a return in Eindhoven.
There were straight-forward victories for both Spain and the Netherlands. The reigning European Champions overcame a spirited Croatia 17-6, while the Netherlands ended the British fairy-tale in Eindhoven with an effortless 25-6 win.
Italy fought off Hungary in a dramatic and high-quality contest (12-11) while a composed Greek performance eliminated any opportunity of an upset against Paris 2024 hosts, France (15-7). Significantly, Greece’s victory secures their place at next month’s World Championships in Doha.
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Both Spain and Netherlands have now reached the European Championship semi-finals for the fifth tournament in a row.
Spain’s quest to win a third straight European Championship title will now face its sternest test yet, as Miki Oca’s side faces Greece in the first semi-final – a rematch of the 2022 final.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands will need to leverage their home advantage when facing Italy – a match that always promises to be a breathtaking contest.
Elsewhere, Serbia and Israel both guarenteed top-10 finishes with well-earned victories over Germany and Czechia respectively.
2024 European Women’s Championships, Day 5
Italy edged past Hungary by one goal in a thrilling quarter-final (12-11).
The match showcased supreme quality, and Hungary will undoubtedly rue missed opportunities, especially during their extra-player situations. Falling behind by three goals in the third period proved to be a turning point, forcing them to chase the game.
Italy, starting strong, managed to establish a crucial three-score lead in the third period, facing immense pressure, especially when key players Palmieri and Tabani faced exclusions due to three personal fouls.
Roberta Bianconi displayed exceptional form, contributing significantly in the first quarter to put Italy in the lead. Avegno and Marletta also put on a show, scoring crucial goals when needed.
While Hungary displayed moments of quality, it wasn’t sufficient. Krisztina Garda emerged as the only efficient converter. Had they capitalized on a few more opportunities, a spot in the semi-finals might have been theirs.
The Hungarians have now had two incredibly disapointing European Championship campaigns, back-to-back. Perhaps more importantly, their Olympic qualification still hangs in the balance.
Italy’s first-quarter charge, led by three sensational goals from Roberta Bianconi, set the tone (4-2). Despite Hungary’s improvement early in the second period, their inefficiency during extra-player opportunities allowed Italy to maintain a 7-5 lead at halftime.
Hungary intensified their efforts in the second half, posing real challenges, but Italy managed to withstand everything thrown their way. As Claudia Marletta secured a crucial goal, making it 10-7, Italy gained the buffer they desperately needed.
Late goals from Keszthelyi and Vanda Valyi (12-11) set the stage for a tense final two minutes. However, wasted chances from Szilagyi and Garda in the last 30 seconds summed up what went wrong for the Hungarians.
Italy will now truly believe they can take the gold medal. The last time they did that? Eindhoven, 2012.
Elsewhere, Spain continue to build momentum in Eindhoven, defeating Croatia 17-6 to reach their fifth consecutive semi-final.
The reigning European Champions proved too strong for Croatia’s young outfit, even without Maica Garcia and Anni Espar – who were both rested ahead of their semi-final clash with Greece.
Baring a brilliant spell in the second period from the Croats, Spain were always comfortable and controlled during the match. The European Champions moved the ball excellently, feeding off great work from their centre-forwards and finishing their chances.
Ariadna Ruiz, operating on the right, was instrumental in the match with 6 assists; Paula Camus and Pili Pena converted four goals apiece.
Spain wore black armbands during the national anthems in tribute to Javier Saez, vice president of RFEN, who passed away suddenly yesterday evening.
Croatia’s will now focus on beating their best ever finish at the Euros (8th, 2010 and 2022).
Meanwhile the Netherlands dispatched Great Britain with total ease in a dominant 25-6 win.
There was only ever going to be one winner in this match; the gulf between the two teams was evident right from the start, as the World Champions showed the Brits the level they are aspiring to reach.
The Dutch were utterly dominant, and looked deadly every attack. Simone Van de Kraats (four goals) and Lieke Rogge (five goals) really punished Team GB from the outside, while Vivian Sevenich and Kitty Joustra put on a masterclass at centre-forward.
The Netherlands now progress to the semi-finals, and continue their quest to win a first European Championship since 2018. Great Britain will now turn its focus to secure a ticket to the Doha World Championships.
And lastly, a clinical second-half performance from Greece guided them past France with a score of 15-7.
Four goals from Eirini Ninou and three from Eleftheria Plevritou helped the four-time European silver medalists reach back-to-back European Championship semi-finals.
Greece started the game confidently and with real intensity, securing a healthy 3-0 lead in the first period.
It took time, but France settled incredibly well in the second quarter, scoring the next four goals to turn the match around to a 4-3 lead. However, that was as good as it got for the French.
Greece refocused before the end of the half, thanks to two goals from Eirini Ninou (6-5), which ultimately proved crucial. The game then completely changed after halftime, as France was ruthlessly picked off in the third period. Unable to cope with Greece’s blistering speed on the counter, Alexia Kammenou’s side then scored four unanswered goals, completely destroying France’s momentum in the match and reaching double-digits before the end of the third (10-5).
A rocket from Margarita Plevritou, an Athina Giannopoulou fastbreak, and a well-worked score from Nicoleta Eleftheriadou sealed the victory for the Greeks in the fourth quarter.
The Greeks, who are still searching for a first European gold medal, will face Spain in the semi-finals on Thursday. France are still searching for crucial qualification to the World Championship in Doha next month.
Serbia will have the chance to replicate their 9th-place finish from the last European Championships in Split after narrowly defeating Germany 12-11. The Serbs will face Israel, who bounced back from the disappointment of their crossover defeat by defeating Czechia.
An excellent start from Serbia ultimately paid dividends as they held off Germany in the first of the 9th-place semi-finals. Dragana Ivkovic’s side took a 5-1 lead in the first period but needed to work to keep the Germans at bay. In the third period, Germany twice led at 8-7 and 9-8, but two outstanding solo efforts from Nada Mandic (Barceloneta) early in the fourth quarter restored Serbia’s lead (12-10), which they ultimately held onto.
Serbia’s 9th-place play-off opponents are Israel after they defeated the Czech Republic convincingly, 18-5.
Despite a close start to the match, the Israelis showed their quality, scoring the next eight goals in the game, five of which came courtesy of Maria Bogachenko (Sant Andreu).
Turkiye deservedly defeated Romania 7-3 to secure the 13th position, with Romania unable to breach the solid Turkish defense for the first 26 minutes of the game. Slovakia comfortably defeated tournament debutants Bulgaria in the 15th-place playoff by a margin of 18-10.
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