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2020 European Water Polo Ch European Water Polo Ch Budapest LEN Events News Water Polo

34th European Water Polo Championships, Budapest – D9

Favourites are through, though Georgia almost stunned Russia

All four favourite sides qualified for the quarter-finals. Spain and Montenegro went through without any headache, Greece had to overcome some initial struggles but Russia was pressed till the end by the Georgians and the game almost ended in a shootout.

Men’s tournament

Quarter-finals qualification: Montenegro v Turkey 17-6, Germany v Spain 6-12, Russia v Georgia 14-13, Romania v Greece 7-14

For places 13-16th: Slovakia v Malta 8-4, Netherlands v France 8-9

Fixtures for Wednesday

Quarter-finals: Italy v Montenegro, Serbia v Spain, Hungary v Russia, Croatia v Greece. For places 9-12th: Turkey v Georgia, Germany v Romania. For places 13-14th: Slovakia v France. For places 15-16th: Malta v Netherlands

There were no hiccups on the first day of the knockout phase, though Georgia was close to upset the Russians who barely avoided becoming part of a penalty shootout. The action-packed first period saw 10 goals, the Russians were a bit better (6-4) then by halftime they seemed to have built a comfortable 9-6 lead. When they went 10-6 up, no one envisioned what might come next. It was Serbian-born leftie Boris Vapenski, who netted two in 75 seconds to give hope for the Georgians and it turned into belief as soon they were trailing by only a single goal at 11-10.

Russia responded well, though, and bounced back for a 14-11 lead in the fourth but the Georgians didn’t let it go. Their foreign legion, Croatian-born Marko Jelaca, Montenegrin Damir Tsrepulia and Italian Fabio Baraldi all contributed to create a miracle as they came back to 14-13 with 1:27 remaining. And they did have a possession to go even but Jelaca’s shot went wide and the Russians killed the remaining time.

In the following game Romania tried to achieve something similar against Greece and in the first half they managed to surprise their rivals by taking a 4-1 lead early in the second period. The first signs of life from the favourites came in a span of 44 seconds, a double by Konstantinos Genidounias, still, the Romanians held on for 5-4 at halftime.

Head coach Theodoros Vlachos made order in the middle break, a different team came back to the pool and they also made order – within 46 seconds they turned the game and by the end of the third they decided it as well with a 6-0 rush in this period. They won the seconds half 2-10 and will meet European and World bronze medallist Croatia in the quarters.

In the first two QFQ matches Montenegro and Spain made it clear right at the beginning that they were not keen to entangle in any dogfight. Montenegro led 8-2 at halftime against the Turks and earned the biggest win of the day, while after a balanced first period Spain netted six in the second, won the middle two quarters 3-9 and switched back to energy-saving mood for the last period. They had a cause to do so as they will replay the 2018 final against title-holder Serbia in the quarter-finals.

In the games for the lower ranks, Slovakia could win its first match here, against Malta, while the Netherlands had to go through more bitter moments as they fell short against France and will play for the 15th place only, though the team had much more potential (hosting Olympic Qualification Tournament saves them a place in that competition – otherwise they would have lost the chance to take part).

For more details, detailed statistics, play-by-play descriptions click here

FLASH QUOTES

Men’s tournament

For places 13-16th, 11.30

Slovakia v Malta 8-4

Karol Baco, assistant coach, Slovakia

‘We are still having problems with the execution of the man-up situations, but today we had many missed shots even when one of our players faced the opponent’s goalkeeper. We must improve on this field as in the future it would cost us a lot. Of course, we are happy that we can play for the 13th place in this tournament, there I wait some improvement in our game.”

Karl Izzo, head coach, Malta

“I am happy with my team’s performance, although we did not use well our man-up situations as we only scored 1 from 7. We are not used to play that many games in such a short period of time therefore the squad is a bit tired, but I am proud of them.”

Tomas Hiferica, goalkeeper, Slovakia

“We are really happy about our first win in this tournament. I am proud of the boys, they made my job easy in the goal. We were disciplined both in defence and offense. We do not have any expectation from the match for the 13th place. I think the most important for us is to gain as many experience as possible.”

For places 13-16th, 13.00

Netherlands v France 8-9

Harry van der Meer, head coach, Netherlands

“It was a tough and close game for both teams until the end of the match. As a whole, I am not satisfied with the game we showed today, we could not take advantage of many man-ups. We came here today to win this match so because of this I am disappointed, but if we look at the tournament we can see clearly that our players, our team already made some improvement. We look forward to the match against Malta, our task will be simple, we have to play our game.”

Nenad Vukanic, head coach, France

“We planned to finish higher but we could not advance to the next level. I am happy for the guys as we had some difficulties during the group stage and in today’s game, which was very intense and tough, we won and will face Slovakia for the 13th position.”

Remi Saudadier, player, France

“We did not start this tournament as we planned and wanted, so this victory was very important for us. We did not let the results broke us and we fought hard as a team in every game. Now we are more confident and we are looking forward to play against Slovakia, we would like to win that one as well.”

Quarter-finals qualification, 14.30

Montenegro v Turkey 17-6

Vladimir Gojkovic, head coach, Montenegro

“We tried to get from this game as much as we could. The difference in quality was undisputable. We began somewhat poorly in the first quarter, but later we lift our concentration level and became more aggressive. The game against Italy is one why we came here – as well as to qualify for the Olympic Qualification Tournament too. We will have to show our true face, it will be the hardest and most stressful match so far. But what else an athlete can wish for than to be part of such a spectacle in this beautiful arena?”

Sinan Turunc, head coach, Turkey

“I’m not happy with the score, we had some easy man-ups in the first quarter, and we could have been closer by 3-4 four goals. So the final result should have been 17-10 or something similar. We are still in the learning process against great teams like Croatia and Montenegro. I think we made some huge improvement in the past year. We have two more games, we’d like to win at least on of them.”

Alexandar Ivovic, player, Montenegro

“Before the competition, our main goal was to reach the quarter-finals. Every step after that is already a huge success for us, especially as we will face Italy. They will base their game on counter attacks because they are really fast, they have already shown that during these European Championships.”

Uros Cuckovic, player, Montenegro

“We met the easiest opponent in this round. We did what we meant to do. The match against Italy will be our toughest one so far, they have an excellent team. I hope we can play as well as we did against Croatia and Germany. With the right approach we have to prevent them from breaking away and hopefully we win that game and reach the semi-finals.”

Berk Biyik, player, Turkey

“We coped with Montenegro a bit better than against the other top teams. We can play with high-level teams, we have to continue to work in order to catch up with eight best sides. I have the full trust in my team, we want to win at least one more game.”

Quarter-finals qualification, 16.00

Germany v Spain 6-12

Hagen Stamm, head coach, Germany

“We started well, it was much better than against Montenegro. However, we let them too many easy goals. Our extraman wasn’t working, the goal-difference is larger than the real difference between the teams. We have five players injured, sustained in the previous matches and I knew before that would not be able to give 100%. Our match against Romania is going to be difficult, like each one here, but we’d like to win.”

David Martin, head coach, Spain

“It’s never easy to play against Germany as they fight till the very end and never give it up. We played well, controlled the match. Serbia is a worst opponent for a quarter-final, I think we are a bit more tired than they are but we’ll fight and try to win.”

Mateo Cuk, player, Germany

“We expected a tough game, we tried to give our best but they were just too strong. Now the most important thing is to try to beat Romania in order to secure our place in the Olympic Qualification Tournament.”

Blai Mallarach, player, Spain

“We expected a game like this. We set up a good defence, the first quarter was a bit tough, then in the second we played our own game with a lot of swimming and took control. The quarter-final against Serbia is the toughest it can be. We must show that we can play against any team at the highest level.”

Quarter-finals qualification, 17.30

Russia v Georgia 14-13

Sergey Evstigneev, head coach, Russia

“We expected a tough match and we were ready. We could have closed down the match earlier several times but we always conceded an easy goal and gave them a chance to bounce back. Our man-down was not good nor our attack. Towards the end of the game our defence fell apart and we could not score goals, our blocks didn’t work either. The Georgians played great today. We will now play against Hungary on their home soil. It will be a full house but it can only be an incentive for my players to give their best and show what we can do.”

Revaz Chomakhidze, head coach, Georgia

“My team played really well. It was only the last quarter that decided the match. I think not even the water polo community expected this result, I guess. I am satisfied but this effort wasn’t enough to break into the top 8. I can say I am proud of my team, they really gave their best. ‘The problem was that Russia could shoot some easy goals from outside. I am well aware of that our defence should improve to be able to prevent goals like these. Now we have to rest, calm down and start all over again with the same desire.”

Igor Bychkov, player, Russia

“Fortunately, we were able to win so we are one step closer to the Olympic qualification. The next task is to beat Hungary. I have to admit Georgia played quite well, it was a close game, especially at the end. We have to work on the contacts between the players, as there were some problems with our game because of those minor errors.”

Daniil Merkulov, player, Russia

“We didn’t expect the match to end this way. We expected a higher goal difference. Maybe we underestimated them a little bit. It will be a tough game against Hungary. They are very strong, they have a lot of good players but I think we have a chance if we give our best. It will be one hell of an atmosphere!”

Andria Biradze, player, Georgia

“This was the most important game in the history of Georgian water polo and the most thrilling match. For us playing against Russia is always much more than just the sport, it is special. We brought two-three times more emotions into this game than we normally do. This was our chance to get into the top eight and secure a spot at the 2021 World Championships and we had a real chance. They are better but we can play with everybody. Some key moments in the fourth quarter decided the match. I want to congratulate and thank everybody, to my teammates, coaches and our president.”

Quarter-finals qualification, 19.00

Romania v Greece 7-14

Athanasios Kechagias, head coach, Romania

“We knew Greece would be a very difficult game, they were the favourites. There are no secrets between us, we held on well in the first half of the game. We stuck to our plan, then we lost our concentration. When this happens against a team like Greece you lose. It’s as simple as that. We will now go back and analyse our weaknesses and do our best to win against Germany.”

Theodoros Vlachos, head coach, Greece

“We didn’t start this match well. Maybe it was the pressure of being the favourite here. The second part of was good, we found our game, our rhythm and secured a clear win. We have to see why this is happening. With Croatia both our offence and defence have to be perfect if we want to win. They are the favourites. We will look for and take our chances and as well as prepare something for them. They are very experienced, we have to try and keep the game as tight as possible.”

Marius Tic, goalie, Romania

“We started the way as we wanted. We were careful in defence till halftime but then we lost the third quarter 6-0. I don’t know what happened but it was impossible to recover after that. Germany is like us. It will be an open match. Who desires the victory more will win.”

Dimitrios Skoumpakis, player, Greece

“We didn’t start the game well. Later we improved our concentration level and did our best to win. It will be a close match against Croatia. We will go into the match and try to win. We know each other very well.”

Konstantinos Genidounias, player, Greece

“In the second half we proved that we are a much better team than Romania. The guys were a little nervous because it was a knockout game. I think we did not always have the best decisions but our team spirit was right there till the end and we won pretty easily.”