2020 European Women’s Water Polo Semifinalists Set: Hungary, The Netherlands, Russia and Spain

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Spain will advance to the 2020 European Water Polo Championship final if it can get past host Hungry on Thursday. Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala

In results Tuesday from the 34th LEN European Water Polo Championships, the four top teams in group play predictably advanced out of the quarterfinals and into semifinal match-ups Thursday in Budapest’s Duna Aréna.

2020_european_champ_logoLed by Holland’s 22-2 domination of Slovakia, Russia pushed past Italy by a score of 13-7, Spain won 12-9 over Greece, and in the day’s final match, host Hungry captured a 16-3 decision over France.

This sets up pairings of Russia versus Holland and Spain and Hungary. The winners of these matches will advance to the 2020 European Championship final on Saturday, January 25.

Of Tuesday’s quarterfinal matches, the Greece vs. Spain result was the most competitive. Of late, the Spanish women have dominated the Greeks, including a win in the 18th FINA World Water Polo Championships last summer in Gwuangju, South Korea.

On Tuesday, Greece’s Margarita Plevritou scored four times to keep her team close, but a third-period spurt, led by Beatriz Ortiz Muñoz (four goals), Maica Garcia Godoy (two scores) and Irene Gonzalez Lopez (one goal) turned a 6-all tie into a 9-6 Spanish lead, a difference that the Greeks could not overcome.

Lopez will be familiar to observers of NCAA women’s varsity polo; last spring she finished up a four-year career at Hawai’i as the program’s third all-time leading scorer (226 goals), helping the Rainbow Wahine to two NCAA tournaments (2015, 2019) during her time in Honolulu.

[2019 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Tournament: Selected Quotes]

The only other quarterfinal match that was close was Russia’s win over Italy—which proved to be a continuation of success the Russians enjoyed last month at the 2019 USA Water Polo Holiday Cup, which saw the Italians drop a 14-9 decision in that tournament’s third-place match.

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Irene Gonzalez-Lopez. Photo Courtesy: Hawai’i Athletics

On Tuesday, the Russians broke open a close match with a 7-2 second half surge. Leading the way for Head Coach Alexander Gaidukov were Maria Bersneva, Elvina Karimova, and Anna Timofeeva with three goals apiece.

Captain Elisa Queirolo chipped in two scores for Italy, which will now make plans to host the Women’s World Olympic Qualification in Italy from March 15 -22.

Two blow-outs marked Tuesday’s other quarterfinal results; the Dutch got five goals from Maud Megens as they burst out to a 9-0 first half lead, and then coasted to the win with 13 more scores in the second half. Megens now has 22 goals on 36 attempts, a blistering 61% conversion rate—and a tournament total only exceed by Rita Keszthelyi-Nagy’s 23. The Hungarian captain notched four scores as the home team allowed two scores in the first period and then outscored the French 11-1 in the next three.

The win advanced Hungary the Euro Championship semifinals for first time since 2016, when they won gold with a 9-7 victory over The Netherlands. In 2018, the Dutch took the title with a 6-4 decision over Greece; if Head Coach Arno Havenga’s squad can get past Russia, they have a chance to become the first repeat winners since those same Russians swept three straight titles from 2006 – 2010.

Wait until March for France, Greece and Italy

If the semifinal losers hope to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo, they can travel to Italy in March for the Olympic Qualification Tournament. The Italians and Greeks are likely to qualify; the French may be encouraged by a strong showing in Budapest. Three berths are available in Italy for the taking while one of the four semifinalists in Budapest will walk away with an Olympic berth. Spain has already qualified by virtue of finishing second to the US women in the FINA World Championships.

[Three-Peat for USA Women at FINA World Water Polo Championships]

It’s now incumbent upon Holland, Hungary and Russia to fight their way to the finals and capture both gold in Budapest but also a Tokyo berth.

There’s still games Thursday for these and other participants; France will play Greece while Italy and Slovakia will meet in the fifth to eighth place bracket.

Israel completed it’s best-ever performance at the Euro Championships with a 10-3 win over Germany. Behind captain Shunit Strugo’s four goals—and 10 for the tournament—the Israelis finished ninth, an improvement from a tenth-place showing in 2018.