PREVIEW 32nd European Water Polo Championships, Belgrade 2016
Serbia hopes to achieve the triple Spain to defend title in the womens event
Belgrade (LEN) Following a disappointing seventh place at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, Serbias mens water polo team won everything on offer in the last two years. At the upcoming European Championships, in front of a home crowd at the Kombank Arena, the Serbs hope to achieve the triple: after Eindhoven 2012 and Budapest 2014 they want to add the third consecutive continental title to their tally (officially the last nation to achieve this was the Soviet Union in 1983-85-87, while as a mirror of the historical changes there was a kind of triple in the previous decade: many of the players were the same while the team won in 2001 under the name of Yugoslavia, in 2003 as Serbia and Montenegro and in 2006 as Serbia).
In the womens event the Netherlands, 2015 World silver medallists in Kazan, want to celebrate their fifth European Championship gold since 1985 but Spain is up to retain their title.
Mens Event: All European champions will compete
The European Championships will kick off with a real nail-biter as the opening match of Group B is worthy of a final of any tournament. In fact it was a final five months ago: at the World Championship in Kazan and now host Serbia will have to face Croatia in the preliminaries again. The Serbs defeated Croatia 11-4 at the Worlds with ease. Just as they did a month earlier: again, it was a final in the 2015 World League in Bergamo, where the team led by coach Dejan Savic Serbia vanquished Croatia 9-6. Still, no one should forget that Croatia won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London so they will have a word or two on Sunday evening.
In the preliminary round, top favourite Serbia will also face France and Malta, the latter one will compete on the big international stage for the first time after their one-time appearance at the Olympics in 1936. While France earned just one European Championship medal (silver in Bologna in 1927), Croatia took the top spot of the podium at the 2010 Europeans at home in Zagreb.
In Group A 2008 European champion Montenegro will clash with Spain, the Netherlands and Slovakia. Water polo is one of the most important sports in the small Balkan state with a population of about 700,000 inhabitants and at the European Championships in Budapest Montenegro came fourth. While the Netherlands boast one gold medal in their medal collection they claimed that more than 65 years ago at the 1950 Europeans in Vienna neither Spain nor Slovakia ever won a title. Spains best result dates back to 1991 in Athens when they were runners-up.
One of the other favourites is Italy in Group C. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London the Settebello earned the silver medal and earned a fourth-place finish at the World Championships in Kazan. Italys coach Alessandro Campagna will continue to count on his well-experienced, 36-year old goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti. The Squadra Azzurra captured three European titles; the last, however, dates back to 1995. It was in Vienna at the Ernst Happel Stadium for the first time that European Championships were staged in a temporary pool (outdoors at that time) where Italy upset Hungary in the final. At the 1993 Europeans in Sheffield, todays coach Campangna was member of Italys gold medal winning side. Germany, European Champion in Split in 1981 and in the former German capital, Bonn, in 1989, won their last European medal a bronze in 1995. The teams of Romania and Georgia, the latter participates at the Europeans for the second time, never gained a spot on the podium. Romania came the closest in 1993 when they reached the semis but had to settle for the 4th place.
In Group D, record-holder 12-time European champion Hungary will have to face the surprise team in Kazan, Greece the Greeks clinched their second bronze medal at the World Championships after 2005 in Montreal. At the European Championships, however, Greece has yet to win a medal. The other teams in Group D are Turkey and Russia. With five titles from the days of the former Soviet Union Russia is listed among the most successful water polo teams in Europe, but they earned their last title in Strasbourg in 1987 and after the 2004 Olympics (bronze) they faced a sad decline.
Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Italy, Germany, Croatia, Montenegro and the Netherlands all the former winning nations compete in the mens event in Belgrade, 90 years after the premiere of the European Championships in Budapest in 1926.
Womens event: Record winner Italy hopes to make it half a dozen
After Netherlands womens team failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, the new coach Arno Havenga built a new team under the leadership of their experienced captain Yasemin Smit. With success: both at the 2014 European Championships and at the 2015 Worlds the Netherlands made it to the final, and both times they gained silver. At the Worlds they were narrowly defeated 4-5 by the USA. Since the 1993 Europeans in Leeds, the Oranjes are waiting for their title No. 5. After the introduction of the womens tournament in the Norwegian capital Oslo in 1985 (for the only time when the women played a separate tournament) the Netherlands celebrated three consecutive European Championship titles.
Hungary and Russia in Group A are two teams that have left their marks at the past European Championships. Russia won three titles, the last in Zagreb in 2010. It was a hat-trick after the victories in Belgrade (2006) and Malaga (2008). So far, Hungary has earned two gold medals, the last in Budapest in 2001 in front of a home crowd. Greece is decorated with two silver medals (in 2010 and two years later in Eindhoven). The last Europeans for Portugals womens team dates back to 1997 (Seville), when 12 teams fought for the title. Turkey will celebrate its European Championship premiere in Belgrade.
Five-time gold medallist Italy will have to face defending champion Spain in Group B. Last summer, the Setterosa returned from the Worlds in Kazan with a bronze medal in their bags. Spain, however, only secured a seventh-place result, a disappointment after the Olympic silver in 2012, the world title in 2013 and the European gold in 2014. Italy won their last European title in Eindhoven in 2012. Germany and France both decorated with European bronze medals round off Group B. The Equipe Tricolore claimed bronze at home in Strasbourg in 1987 and two years later in Bonn while Germany came third in the first edition in Oslo in 1985.
Croatia and host Serbia are reckoned to be among the lightweights in the womens water polo tournament. For both national teams it will be the second participation in a European Championship their first ones connected to hosting the event: Serbia welcomed the European water polo elite ten years ago in Belgrade, while Croatia carried out the tournament in Zagreb in 2010.
Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Hungary, Spain, Greece, France and Germany all these nations competing in the womens event in Belgrade have claimed at least one medal since the first edition of European Championships in 1985.
BELGRADE 2016 FACTS & FIGURES
DATE: From January 10-23, the Serbian Capital Belgrade will host the 32nd European Water Polo Championships. For the third time since 2008, European medals are awarded in an Olympic year and it is the second time after the premiere in 2012 in Eindhoven/Netherlands that LEN kicks off the New Year with a water polo showcase in January, followed by the European Championships in Swimming, Diving and Synchronised Swimming in London/Great Britain (May 9-22) as well as the European Open Water Championships in Hoorn/Netherlands (July 10-14).
LEN: The Ligue Européenne de Natation was founded on August 30, 1927 in Bologna (ITA) by 11 countries and their national swimming federations, one year after the first European Championships in Swimming, Diving and Water Polo had been held in Budapest. Today LEN has 52 member federations from Albania to Ukraine.
HISTORY: The European Water Polo Championships celebrated their première in 1926. The first event was held in Budapest. Until today 31 editions in the mens event were carried out from 1926 until 2014. The first event in the womens competition took place in 1985. The last edition took place in Budapest/Hungary in 2014.
PARTICIPANTS: 16 male and 12 female teams will fight to claim a spot at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (August 5-21) as the new European champions will qualify directly for the Games. With a total of 28 teams from 17 LEN Member Federations, the event in Serbias capital will be the biggest European Water Polo Championships ever staged in Europe, surpassing the previous record participation of 16 male and nine female teams in Bonn/Germany in 1989. The new European champions will be crowned after exactly 100 matches.
HOSTS: For the second time after 2006 Belgrade will stage the Water Polo Europeans. In the current edition alongside the Danube and Sava Rivers, however, the hosts choose to challenge themselves. Ten years ago the championship matches were played at the legendary swimming pools of Tasmajdan (men) and Banjica (women). This time games will be contested in a temporary pool installed at the Kombank Arena.
LOCATION: The arena has a maximum crowd capacity of up to 25,000 spectators and has already been the venue of numerous European Championships, with the mens 2005 European Basketball Championships being the first sport event held here. After some alterations, the Kombank Arena will seat approximately 11,000 spectators during the European Water Polo Championships (since one part of the field of play is used for the warm-up pool). A sold out session will mean that the venue will witness the largest number of spectators ever seen at a water polo match at the Europeans. The advance ticket-sale has already started on December 1.
POOL: By the way, to date games at the European Water Polo Championships were played only once in a temporary pool: it happened in 1995, when the mens tournament was staged at the legendary Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna and Italy clinched the gold medal (the womens final round was also played here with Italy winning gold there so far the only occasion when the two titles went to the same country).
… NEWCOMER: The womens team of Turkey has not yet competed in a European Championship, they qualified for the first time. Croatias womens team also qualified for the first time for the 2016 Europeans in Belgrade; as hosts of the 2010 edition in Zagreb they were automatically qualified. In the mens tournament Malta will celebrate its premiere on the European water polo stage (they played at the Olympics in Berlin 1936). Even though the national team already had played three European Championships in former years with different competition modus then: In Split in 1981 Malta secured a 10th-place finish in Group B. Four years later in Sofia they finished in eighth position in Group B. Malta earned a fourth place-result in Group C in Strasbourg in 1987. At that time, these groups played at the same venue as Group A.
… COMPETITION MODUS: In the round of the last 16, the wheat will be separated from the chaff in the mens water polo event as the first placed teams will meet the fourth-placed sides, according to the draw, in the crossover matches. Likewise, the runners-up will face the third-placed sides. The respective winners will make it to the quarter-finals while the defeated teams will fight for the ranks ninth to 16th in knockout rounds. In the womens tournament the teams ranked 1-4 of both preliminary round groups will qualify for the quarters and will then determine the semi-final berths. The two teams on fifth position after the preliminary rounds will play for ranks 9-10. The sixth-placed teams will determine the ranks 11-12.
… WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TICKETS: At the European Championships in Belgrade the teams will not only be fighting for a ticket in the Olympic qualifying tournament and to the Olympic Games in Rio. Their participation in the next World Championships in Budapest (July 15-30, 2017) is at stake, too. The three best teams in the mens and womens tournament in Belgrade qualify for the Worlds in Hungarys capital. As host of the World Championships, Hungary has already secured its berth in both the mens and womens tournament.
OLYMPICS 2016: The winner in the mens event will secure a berth in the Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Should the new European champion have already qualified for Rio, there will be an alternate. Based on the results of this years World Championships and the World League Serbia, Croatia and Greece have already booked their respective places, so the highest ranked team following any of them will secure a ticket to Rio. Additional four berths will be up for grabs for the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Trieste on April 3-10. (Italy as the host is already a participant, if they earn their ticket to Rio in Belgrade, a 5th place will be allocated and some more might be available if the other continents dont use their respective quotas.)
The winner in the womens event will qualify directly for the Olympic Games while the following five teams of the final ranking will have another chance to grab a ticket at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Gouda (March 21-28). The same applies in case of the Netherlands as for Italy in the mens event.
Water Polo Champions & Favourites MEN
Olympic Champion 2012 Croatia
World League Winner 2013 Serbia
World Champion 2013 Hungary
World League Winner 2014 Serbia
European Champion 2014 Serbia
World Cup Winner 2014 Serbia
World League Winner 2015 Serbia
World Champion 2015 Serbia
2012 Olympic Champion; 1996 Olympic silver medallist; 2008 6th
2007 World Champion; 2015 World silver medallist; 2009, 2011 and 2013 World bronze medallist
2010 European Champion; 1999 and 2003 European silver medallist; 2014 European 5th
2012 World League champion; 2009 and 2015 World League runner-up; 2010 and 2011 Word League 3rd
2010 World Cup runner-up; 2014 World Cup 3rd
2004 Olympics 4th; 2008 Olympics 7th
2005 and 2015 World bronze medallist; 2003 Worlds 4th; 2013 World 6th
1999 Europeans 4th; 2012 and 2014 European 6th
1997 World Cup runner-up; 2004 and 2006 World League 3rd
9-time Olympic champion (1932, 1936, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1976, 2000, 2004 and 2008); 1928, 1948 and 1972 Olympic silver medallist; 1960, 1968 and 1980 Olympic bronze medallist; 2012 Olympic 5th
1973, 2003 and 2013 World champion; 1975, 1978, 1982, 1998, 2005 and 2007 World silver medallist; 1991 World bronze medallist; 2011 World 4th; 2015 World 6th
12-time European champion (1926, 1927, 1931, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1974, 1977, 1997, 1999); 1970, 1983, 1993, 1995, 2006 and 2014 European silver medallist; 1981, 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2012 European bronze medallist; 2010 European 4th
2003 and 2004 World League champion; 2005, 2007, 2013 and 2014 World League runner-up
1979, 1995 and 1999 World Cup champion; 1993, 2002, 2006 and 2014 World Cup runner-up
1948, 1960 and 1992 Olympic champion; 1976, 2012 Olympic silver and 1952, 1996 Olympic bronze medallist
1978, 1994 and 2011 World champion; 1986 and 2003 World silver medallist; 1975 World bronze medallist; 2013 and 2015 World 4th
1947, 1993 and 1995 European champion; 2001 and 2010 European silver medallist; 1954, 1977, 1987, 1989, 1999 and 2014 European bronze medallist; 2012 European 4th
1989, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2011 World League runner-up; 2012 World League 3rd; 2015 World League 7th
1993 World Cup champion
2008 and 2012 Olympics 4th
2013 World silver medallist; 2015 World 5th; 2011 World 7th
2008 European Champion; 2012 European silver medallist; 2014 European 4th; 2010 European 5th
2009 World League Champion; 2010 World League runner-up; 2013 and 2014 World League 3rd
2014 World Cup 7th
1968, 1984, 1988 Olympic champion (YUG); 1952, 1956, 1964, 1980 and 2004 (SCG) Olympic silver medallist; 2000, 2008 and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist
1986 and 1991 (YUG), 2005 (SCG), 2009 and 2015 (SRB) World champion; 2001 and 2011 World silver medallist (SRB); 1973, 1978, 1998, 2003 (SCG) World bronze medallist; 2013 World 7th
1991 and 2001 (YUG), 2003 (SCG), 2006, 2012 and 2014 (SRB) European champion; 1954, 1958, 1962, 1977, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 2008 European silver medallist; 1950, 1966, 1970, 1974 and 2010 European bronze medallist
2005, 2006 (SCG), 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 World League champion (SRB)
1987 and 1989 (YUG), 2006 (SCG), 2010 and 2014 World Cup champion
Water Polo Champions & Favourites WOMEN
Olympic Champion 2012 USA
World League Winner 2013 China
World Champion 2013 Spain
World League Winner 2014 USA
European Champion 2014 Spain
World Cup Winner 2014 USA
World League Winner 2015 USA
World Champion 2015 USA
2004 Olympic silver medallist; 2008 Olympic 8th
2011 World Champion; 2009 4th; 2013 and 2015 World 6th
2010 and 2012 European silver medallist; 1995 and 2001 4th; 2014 European 6th
2005 World League champion; 2012 World League 3rd
2008 and 2012 Olympic 4th; 2004 Olympic 6th
1994 and 2005 World champion; 2001 World silver medallist; 2013 World bronze medallist
1991 and 2001 European champion; 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 2003 European silver medallist; 1993, 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2014 European bronze medallist
2004 World League 2nd; 2013 World League 4th
2002 World Cup champion; 1988 World Cup runner-up; 1989, 1993 and 1995 World Cup 3rd; 2014 WC 5th
2004 Olympic champion; 2008 Olympic 6th; 2012 Olympic 7th
1998 and 2001 World champion; 2003 World silver medallist; 1994 and 2015 World bronze medallist
1995, 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2012 European champion; 2001 and 2006 European silver medallist; 1991 European bronze medallist; 2014 European 4th
2006, 2011 and 2014 World League runner-up; 2004 World League 3rd; 2013 World League 6th, 2015 World League 7th, 2012 World League 8th
1993 and 2006 World Cup runner-up, 1999 World Cup 3rd
2008 Olympic Champion; 2000 Olympic 4th
1991 World champion; 1986, 1994, 1998 and 2015 World silver medallist; 2009 Worlds 5th; 2013 World 7th
1985, 1987, 1989 and 1993 European champion; 1991, 1999 and 2014 European silver medallist; 1995, 1997 and 2010 European bronze medallist; 2012 European 6th
2015 World League 3rd
1980, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997 and 1999 World Cup champion
2000 Olympic bronze medallist; 2004 Olympic 5th; 2012 Olympic 6th; 2008 Olympic 7th
2003, 2007, 2009 and 2011 World bronze medallist; 2013 World 4th; 2015 World 7th
2006, 2008 and 2010 European Champion; 1993, 1997 European silver medallist; 1999, 2001, 2003 European bronze medallist; 2012 European 4th; 2014 European 5th
2008 World League Champion; 2005 and 2013 World League runner-up; 2006 World League 3rd; 2015 World League 5th; 2014 World League 7th
1997 World League runner-up; 2006 World Cup 3rd; 2014 World Cup 6th
2012 Olympic silver medallist
2013 World Champion; 2007 and 2015 Worlds 7th; 2003 and 2009 Worlds 8th
2014 European Champion; 2008 European silver medallist; 1997 and 2006 4th; 2012 European 5th; 2010 6th
2009 World League 4th; 2013 and 2014 World League 5th
2014 World Cup 3rd
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