Once more: all eyes on Budapest
Perhaps for the last time this year all eyes from the water polo family will be set on Budapest: site of this summer’s World Championships and also that of three European Cup finals, the Hungarian capital hosts both the men’s and women’s Super Cup finals on Saturday. LEN offers free live streaming from the matches on its website.
Three years after the two big games were played back-to-back in Barcelona, Budapest will witness another double clash. Clinching three out of four trophies, the Hungarian clubs enjoyed a brilliant spring, so a local triumph is guaranteed in the men’s final as it’s an all-Magyar affair featuring Champions League winner Szolnok and Euro Cup winner Ferencvaros. Russia’s Kirishi, first in the women’s Euro League, can spoil the Hungarian celebrations in the first match of the afternoon while taking on LEN Trophy winner UVSE Budapest.
The Russians clinched their first-ever European silverware at home soil as well: after five lost finals, Kirishi finally managed to win the last match of the Euro League Final Four, securing a spot in the Super Cup final. They defeated Mataro (ESP) in the semis 11-8 and won a thriller against Olympiacos (GRE) in the final (7-6).
UVSE also earned a 7-6 win in the LEN Trophy final, against Padova (ITA) – it was a kind of consolation after the club had some bitter moments while bowing out in the quarter-finals of the Euro League (went down against Mataro despite leading 10-4 in the fourth period in the first leg). The Hungarians then had two hard-fought wins in the F4 of the LEN Trophy, beating fellow Hungarian Dunaujvaros in the semis (8-6) and Padova in the final.
UVSE is shaping an even stronger team for this season though their biggest ace, the Olympic champion USA player Maggie Steffens will join them only in January 2018. Still, playing in front of a home crowd they have a strong chance against the Russians.
As for the men, the battle between Szolnok and Ferencvaros is a mouth-watering one since a handful of players joined Ferencvaros from Szolnok in the past two years. Beijing Olympic champion Daniel Varga and Rio Olympic champion Stefan Mitrovic moved last year, helping the Budapest based side to achieve an outstanding result once again at the European stage. MVPs of the recent World Championships, Denes Varga (in 2013) and Marton Vamos (this July) switched clubs just months ago.
Szolnok had a great run in the Champions League, they remained unbeaten in the entire season, beat fellow Hungarian side Eger in the semis of the Final Six (7-5), then hunted down title-holder Jug Dubrovnik (CRO) in a one-sided final (10-5). Despite losing a couple of key-players, Szolnok is still the team to beat on Saturday.
After a decade spent in ‘silence’, Ferencvaros made some splash in Europe again. The club enjoyed great spells in the 70s and the 90s, winning trophies and reaching European cup finals from time to time – and now they are back to have some more of those triumphant moments. They sailed through the Euro Cup last season, won a tremendous duel against Jadran Herceg Novi (MNE) in the semis then blew away Oradea (ROU) in the final. Their current line-up – featuring Hungarian and Serbian Olympic champions – would be good enough to chase the Final Eight spots in the Champions League, now they are eyeing retaining the Euro Cup and capturing the Super Cup for the third time in the club’s history after 1978 and 1980.
The finals are played in a legendary venue, the famous Komjadi Pool where a series of outstanding European club matches took place in the past – now the very best of water polo returns to the completely refurbished complex. As a gesture for the fans, LEN offers free live streaming from both encounters, just visit www.len.eu
European Super Cup Finals, Budapest, 4 November
15.45: Kinef Surgutneftegas Kirishi (RUS) v UVSE Budapest (HUN)
18.15: Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v PQS-Ferencvaros Water Polo (HUN)