There were many goals and exciting matches on the opening day of the European Men’s U17 Championships in Manisa (Turkey).
The match Spain – Croatia in Group A was the highlight of the day, with both teams exchanging the lead many times until Spain finally emerged victorious – 13:12.
Hungary beat Montenegro by five goals (11:6) in the same group.
The first round in Group B saw Serbia and Greece winning their matches against Italy and the Netherlands, respectively, with identical scores of 12:10.
The games in Division 2 were also interesting.
2023 European U17 Men’s Championships, Day 1
Spain – Croatia 13:12 (3:3, 4:5, 4:3, 2:1)
Hungary – Montenegro 11:6 (4:1, 3:2, 2:2, 2:1)
The duel between Spain and Croatia produced 25 goals and 28 exclusions (12 for the Spanish and 16 for the Croatian players). The score was tied at almost every number from 1 to 12 (except at 4 and 10). Spain was the first team to earn a 2-goal lead. It netted two goals in the first 31 seconds of the 2nd quarter – 5:3. Croatia responded with a 3:0 run and went ahead – 6:5. That was followed by plenty of twists and turns.
Deep into the third quarter, Croatia built a 2-goal advantage (11:9), but it didn’t keep it for long. Spain leveled at 11:11 before the final break. Midway through the fourth quarter, Ante Jerkovic gave Croatia a 12:11 lead. However, the finish of the match belonged to the Spaniards, who netted the last two goals in the game. Tomas Perrone (Felipe Perrone’s nephew) scored a winner with 66 seconds left on the clock by converting a man-up for 13:12. Croatia had a 6 on 5 in its next possession, but it didn’t equalize.
Carlos Nunez was the best scorer with four goals. Tomas Perrone and Croatia’s Gabrijel Burburan found the net three times each.
The second match in the group lacked excitement because Hungary got off to a flying start. The Hungarians rushed to a 6:1 lead (the 13th minute). Montenegro never recovered. It reduced the gap to three goals twice (5:8 and 6:9), but the Hungarians didn’t let their rival come closer.
Hungary’s captain Botond Balogh was unstoppable today. He found the net eight times (three from penalty shots). Tim Perov scored three goals for Montenegro.
Serbia – Italy 12:10 (3:4, 3:1, 3:2, 3:3)
Greece – Netherlands 12:10 (5:1, 4:2, 2:1, 1:6)
The first quarter of the encounter between Serbia and Italy belonged to the Italians (4:3). The Serbs opened the second period with two goals – 5:4. From that point on, the Italians constantly chased the rival and equalized at 5:5, 9:9 and 10:10. Serbia’s Filip Novakovic hit the back of the net twice in the last 80 seconds and Serbia took all three points.
Novakovic contributed to Serbia’s win with three goals. Strahinja Krstic was the top scorer with four goals. Lorenzo Demarchi and Simone De Vecchis scored three goals for Italy.
Greece defeated the Netherlands with the same score as Serbia beat Italy. However, this game wasn’t very exciting. The Greeks dominated for most of the game. They lost concentration in the final eight minutes, but didn’t pay for their mistakes in the fourth quarter. Greece, led by Iosif Kokkis (4 goals), had a 5-goal lead already in the 8th minute – 6:1. Early in the third quarter, it stretched the margin to seven (10:3) and maintained the difference until 12:5. The Dutch scored the last five goals in the match and trailed by two goals (10:12) with 91 seconds to go, but they couldn’t go further.
Despite the loss, the Dutch, who debuted at a major competition (this generation didn’t play in LEN and FINA tournaments before 2023), proved they could pose a danger to the favorites.
France – Poland 10:4 (2:3, 2:0, 3:1, 3:0)
Turkey – Romania 8:12 (3:3, 2:3, 2:3, 1:3)
France recorded the biggest win of the day, but it needed a lot of time to secure a safe advantage in the game over Poland. Moreover, the Poles entered the second quarter leading 3:2. France produced a 3:0 run (5:3). Poland halved the deficit in the 20th minute, but France scored five unanswered goals in the remaining time.
Turkey had “an extra player” in the last match of the day. A few thousand of people in the stands witnessed the hosts’ victory over Romania. After a balanced first quarter, Turkey earned a 2-goal lead in the middle of the second quarter (6:4). The Romanians caught up with the hosts in the 18th minute (6:6), which was followed by Turkey’s 3:0 run within 85 seconds. The hosts went to 9:6. From that point on, the difference was never smaller than two goals. Turkey secured a 4-goal victory from a counter-attack in the very last second.
Georgia – Ukraine 13:10 (4:1, 2:5, 5:3, 2:1)
Malta – Germany 7:9 (2:1, 2:4, 1:1, 2:3)
Georgia quickly earned a 3:0 lead against Ukraine. Still, the team in the blue caps came back into the match and leveled a minute before the middle break (6:6). By the middle of the third quarter, Georgia restored a 3-goal lead (9:6). Ukraine didn’t say its last word yet and came very close twice (8:9 and 9:10). Still, Georgia controlled the game. In the 31st minute, the Georgians widened the gap to four (13:9) and secured three points.
The Germans kept Malta goalless for almost 12 minutes in the second half, which was vital for their win. Malta started better, but Germany headed into the second half leading 5:4. The Maltese leveled at 5:5 in their first possession in the second half. However, their long silence started after that goal. Germany made a 4:0 run and jumped to 9:5. Malta scored two back-to-back goals and halved the difference – 7:9. There were more than three minutes left, but there were no more goals.
Group A: Croatia – Montenegro (18:00), Hungary – Spain (19:30)
Group B: Netherlands – Italy (12:00), Serbia – Greece (13:30)
Group C: France – Romania (16:30), Turkey – Poland (21:00)
Group D: Ukraine – Germany (09:00), Malta – Georgia (10:30)
Times are local