Champions League, Final Six – Budapest (HUN), 2-4 June
Top water polo action returns to the Margaret Island, the Mecca of international water polo as Budapest hosts the Champions League Final Six in the days coming. Featuring five national champions and a cup-winner, this tournament well could be the strongest edition in recent years. Almost 7,000 spectators are expected each evening, promising an attendance record in the event’s history.
“We are on the right way, the Champions League and the Final Six tournaments all were a big success and LEN is committed to continue this way.” These are the words of LEN Bureau Water Polo Liaison, Aleksandar Sostar from the opening press conference of the Final Six tournament. The former Olympic champion goalkeeper insisted that the pool on the Margaret Island belonged to his favourites, a historical site where teams could demonstrate once again that water polo is a great sport.
Denes Kemeny, president of the Hungarian Water Polo Federation announced that they had even extended the capacity of the temporary stands, adding a few hundred seats compared to 2014 when the same venue staged the European Championships. “Only 900 tickets left for each session so I think our decision to grow bigger for this event has already been validated”, Mr. Kemeny said.
LEN Operational Manager Marco Birri proudly mentioned the continuous growth of the competition in many areas. “This competition really reached an unprecedented high level in recent years. All members of the European Broadcasting Union received the highlights of the preliminary rounds and they will get this from here as well on a daily basis. Champions League enjoys more and more live coverage and LEN is also doing its best to deliver more for the water polo friends.”
And they receive more, indeed: free live streaming in HD will be available through the LEN website for three days and detailed statistics in real time can be followed there as well. LEN takes care of the younger generations, too: the ‘Kids Final’, the annual international youth tournament running parallel with the F6 also receive a great coverage on the web.
In the second part of the opening press conference leaders of the participating teams shared their expectations with members of the media (due to their late arrival representative of title-holder Recco was absent).
Five freshly crowned national champions, Barceloneta (ESP), Jug (CRO), Olympaicos (GRE), Recco (ITA), Szolnok (HUN) and a cup-winner, Eger (HUN) line up for the showcase. Interestingly, the four ‘visiting’ sides have won the trophy at least once, the two Hungarians are seeking their first win.
Here is what the leaders said:
Chus Martin, head coach of Barceloneta:
“We are happy to be here and qualify after being the host for two years. We won the league, we are confident and try to achieve the best possible result here.”
Vjekoslav Kobescak, head coach of Jug Dubrovnik:
“We are looking only at the first game against Eger and not any further. Two teams are better than the others, at least on paper but all have the desire to win this tournament.
Theodoros Vlachos, head coach of Olympiacos Piraeus:
“We came here to Budapest with high hopes. In this pool we can only win. We hope we will be lucky once more.” (Olympiacos won the trophy here, in the 2002 Final Four.)
Zoltan Kosz, assistant coach, Szolnok:
“Our build-up couldn’t have been any better by playing a really high level final against Eger. Can you wish for any better preparation than a 5-game series against another Final Six participant? Winning the title was a great bonus, now we are heading to the event with great confidence.”
Attila Barany, president, Eger:
“We have to leave the domestic final behind and focus only on the next step, a match against Jug. We respect the Croats’ traditions, their great players. Last year we lost to them in the same game now our team is ready to take one step higher. Or more. We have six teams with equal chances to win.”
The Final Six tournament kicks off with the two quarters in very same pairings as last year. In Barcelona both Hungarian sides lost to their current rivals, now playing at home they are very much looking for a revenge.
Schedule – Final Six, Budapest
19.00 ZF Eger (HUN) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
20.30 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v CNA Barceloneta (ESP)
For places 5-6
17.30 Losing sides of Day 1
19.00 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Szolnok/Barceloneta
20.30 Pro Recco (ITA) v Eger/Jug
19.30 Bronze medal game
21.00 Champions League final