Summer 2022 didn’t start well for the Hungarian senior male national team. The Hungarians finished 7th at the World Championships in front of the home crowd in Budapest.
But, the finish of the very busy season was excellent. Hungary won silver at the European Championships in Split.
The Hungarians arrived in Split with a new head coach – Zsolt Varga, who introduced a new style of play. There were many new, younger players in the squad. Therefore, few considered the Hungarians the favorites, but they achieved success. Only Croatia, the newly-crowned champion, managed to defeat them.
One of the most experienced players on the Hungarian team was Ferencvaros’ ace Szilard Jansik, who led the team as a captain toward the silver medal in the Spaladium Arena. He came back home with two trophies. Besides the silver medal, he packed the LEN award for the tournament’s best player (MVP) in his bag.
Jansik evokes his still fresh memories of a two-week tournament in Split in an interview with Total Waterpolo.
Since the team was changed significantly after the World Championships, what did you expect of Hungary in Split?
“A lot changed around us, both in the staff and team. The team got quite young. We traveled to the European Championship with seven newcomers. Because of this, no predictions could be made “, Jansik says.
The result at the World Championships was disappointing. What was a more demanding task before Split- recovering mentally from 7th place in Budapest or physically preparing for the tournament at the end of the long season?
“It was difficult to process the 7th place mentally. I think that I did not succeed in it 100% even now. After such a disappointment, it was difficult to get into the second preparation of the summer. Especially because of the knowledge that it was in my head that with such a young team, it would be easy to assume that the European Championship would not go as well as we would like. We know it takes time to integrate the young people and for this new team to get used to it, which we proved well during the championship.”
Hungary’s toughest opponent in the group stage was Serbia. The Olympic champion arrived in Split with a very rejuvenated squad, too. Only three golden boys from the Tokyo Olympics participated in the Europeans. The Serbs weren’t favorites for the title. However, nobody could expect Hungary to demolish the Serbs (16:7). That game traced further paths for Serbia and Hungary in Split.
“We were very happy after the win over Serbia. I felt throughout the match that we could do everything the coach asked us to do, and after five weeks of working together, this was quite realistic. However, keeping our feet on the ground was important since it was only a group match. But, at the same time, that win gave us enough self-confidence and faith to believe that we could defeat anyone. At that point, we had the idea that we would win the quarter-finals, and we wanted to progress step by step.”
Many coaches and players said it had been challenging to adapt to playing against the Hungarians in Split because of their atypical style of play. Do you think Hungary surprised the rivals with a different approach to the tactics?
“We really had a different style of play at the championship than usual. There was always one center-forward in a 13-man squad instead of the usual two, but we had five-six players who could perform well in several positions and could play as center well enough when needed. So, the opponents had a hard time preparing who to send their defenders to. As for defense, it can be said that we were faster because we didn’t have a player with a bigger body who might have had a harder time getting back. Because of this, the opponents could not create counter-attacks, and counters are a great weapon of many teams. This style could cause surprise or confusion for opponents.”
Did you feel some additional pressure and responsibility as the team’s captain?
“It was a new situation for me, but I didn’t feel any pressure because of it. But more responsibility, yes.”
The final was, as usual, an even contest. Still, Croatia led for most of the time. In Jansik’s opinion, the fact that his team chased the rival constantly was decisive.
I think we were consumed by the fact that we were running after the result the whole time. In the last quarter, when we had several opportunities to equalize or perhaps take an onе-goal lead, we repeatedly threw those opportunities at the goal post, and immediately they scored a goal. These do not fit in a final. The winner is the one who makes the fewest mistakes. Croatia used their opportunities very well and drew a lot of strength from their fans.
Each athlete is disappointed after a loss in a final game. But, several days after everything is over, are you satisfied with the team’s result?
“Overall, I am satisfied with the silver medal. We beat the reigning Olympic and the reigning world champions, which is a great achievement. Now, since one week has passed since the final, I can be happier about the silver medal. Positive things will always come to mind if I think back on the Split European Championship later. It was a well-organized tournament, everything went well throughout. However, I will always have a little sense of loss, as I know that we had opportunities to return home with a gold medal, but unfortunately we did not take advantage of them.
Commenting on the MVP award, Hungary’s captain says:
“As for the award, winning the MVP title is an honor for me. I was actually surprised that I won this award, but it is a huge recognition in such a strong field, where Olympic and world champions were also playing. I would like to perpetuate the form I have shown here.”
The pause between the seasons for the national teams and for the clubs won’t be long. Jansik will join his teammates in Ferencvaros very soon and start the preparations for challenges in the competitions in Hungary and the Champions League.
“I got two weeks of rest, which I think will be very good after such a hard club and national team season.
I think Ferencvaros will have a strong team. The goal of Ferencváros is always to win everything at the Hungarian level and to get into the top 8 in the Champions League. Anything can happen in those three-four days at the Champions League Final Eight. In the last three years, we have won gold, silver, and bronze medals. Our goal is to end the season with a medal again.”, Szilard Jansik underlined.