The two sides played extraordinary matches in the prelims. Recco won 14-11 after Szolnok led 0-5 in the opening period. Recco’s Dusan Mandic scored 5 goals in that game. One week later Szolnok hit back with a 12-11 win.
Title-holder Recco was prevented from earning the 9th win by Jug (CRO), after a penalty shootout in the semis. Szolnok is yet to reach its European final in the future after losing to Olympiacos (GRE) with a last-grasp goal in the other semi-final.
Both teams are the freshly crowned national champions in their respective countries. Recco won the Italian title for the 30th time, it was their 11th straight win. Szolnok earned back-to-back golds in Hungary, altogether they had 7 league wins.
This is the third time in 12 F4/F6 appearances that Recco didn’t reach the final. In 2005 they won the bronze medal game (against Jug, 11-7), while in 2014 they finished 6th (losing to Brescia, 9-10). The won the title in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015 (and earlier in 1965 and 1984). They lost the final in 2006, 2009, 2011 (and finished second in 1967, 1970, 1972)
Whatever will be the outcome in this match, this is going to be Szolnok’s best showing as they have only a 6th place from last year. Back in 1965, when Recco won its first trophy, Szolnok couldn’t make the final round, had three defeats in the prelims and bowed out.
It’s going to be a special Serbian battle as more than half of world-beater Serbian national team will appear in this match, separated between the sides: Milan Aleksic, Zivko Gocic and Stefan Mitrovic play for Szolnok while Filip Filipovic, Dusan Mandic, Dusko Pijetlovic and Andrija Prlainovic play for Recco.
Again, Recco’s foreigners led the charge in the semis against Jug: 7 of the 10 goals were delivered by them, Croatian Sandro Sukno (born in Dubrovnik) and Serbian Filip Filipovic netted 3 apiece. Ironically, they missed the crucial penalties in the shootout. Aleksandar Ivovic scored one more. In the prelims, the Serbian-Montenegrin-Croatian mix had the lion-share of scoring: Andrija Prlainovic 17, Aleksandar Ivovic 15, Dusan Mandic 15, Filip Filipovic 14, Sandro Sukno 14, Dusko Pijetlovic 13 – 88 goals altogether from the 130 Recco scored.
Szolnok was the second best behind Recco on the teams’ scoring list in the prelims with 121 goals. Denes Varga netted 28, and with the two goals in the quarters he tops the top scorers’ list with 30 hits, however, he didn’t add any in the semis against Olympiacos, perhaps a reason for Szolnok’s struggles in attack. Ironically, his hand caused the ‘fatal’ deflection when the ball bounced in in the last second against the Greeks (however, own goal is unknown in water polo so it’s not recorded to his name).