Champions League Final Six – Budapest, 2-4 June
This is going to be the strongest Final Six ever since for the first time five freshly crowned national champions will take part in the season-ending showcase in Budapest. Recco (ITA), Olympiakos (GRE), Szolnok (HUN), Jug (CRO) and Barceloneta (ESP) all won its respective national leagues in recent weeks. The sixth team, Eger (HUN) came second, losing to Szolnok in a thriller.
Barceloneta was the last one joining the ‘Golden Final Six’: though unlike in the previous seasons they were forced to play a decisive third match in the Spanish League, finally they prevailed against Sabadell on Monday evening and retained their title so they will arrive to Budapest on a high. All but one other F6 participant.
All but one other F6 participants also enjoyed a golden ending to their respective domestic seasons. Olympiakos is unchallenged in Greece, in the major European countries the top Greek side the only unbeaten water polo club, they won each match back home both in the league and in the cup and they remained unbeaten in the Champions League as well.
After two years Jug brought back the national title to Dubrovnik after they had managed to make a 3-0 sweep in the Croatian final against arch-rival Primorje. Recco passed a real test for the Final Six as last phase of the Italian championship was played in the same format as the Champions League. The title-holder Italian side didn’t disappoint its fans and won 8-6 in a tough battle over Euro Cup winner Brescia in the final.
With two Hungarian teams being featured in the F6 again, it was inevitable that there would not be six champions in the field in the Margaret Island. However, eventual runner-up Eger might have deserved a honorary title as they lost in a thrilling five-game final to Szolnok. The reigning Magyar champion led 2-0 in the series but Eger could beat them in Szolnok in Game 3 (that was the first domestic defeat for Szolnok in 77 weeks), then levelled the score but Szolnok came back big in Game 5 and clinched the gold medal last Saturday.
The Final Six tournament with the five champions kicks off on Thursday with the quarterfinals, semis are due on Friday while the final is scheduled on Saturday evening. The event is to be staged on the Margaret Island, the Mecca of international water polo, site of several European Championships, most recently of the 2014 edition.
Please note that on Wednesday, 1 June we will hold a Press Conference featuring coaches and players of the participating teams. Location and time: at the venue, Alfred Hajos Complex, Margaret Island – the pool restaurant on the 1st level terrace, from 18.00hrs