Spain Stuns Host Croatia for First European Men’s Water Polo Title

Alvaro Granados; Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia/Giorgio Scala

Spain Stuns Host Croatia for First European Men’s Water Polo Title

Croatia’s storybook European men’s water polo championship was eight minutes away from a happy ending. Then Spain stepped in to crash the party.

Alvaro Granados scored twice in the fourth quarter as Spain rattled off the last three goals to stun Croatia, 11-10, in the European Men’s Water Polo Championship final on Tuesday in Zagreb for its first European championship.

Croatia, the reigning champion, led by as many as three goals and held a 10-8 lead after three quarters. But Bernat Sanahuja got Spain within 10-9 at the midway point of the quarter. Granados tied the game with 1:38 left, then put home the winner 50 seconds later. Eduardo Lorrio, subbed into the game for the fourth, stopped all three shots to come his way to give Spain the cushion to pull away.

Alejandro Bustos blocked Loren Fatovic’s extra-player shot with three seconds left to preserve the win for Spain.

Granados and Sanahuja each tallied hat tricks, Granados adding an assist. Alberto Munarriz scored twice. Spain won despite going just 3-for-19 on six-meter shots.

Luka Bukic scored four goals for Croatia. Marko Zuvela and Jerko Marinic Kragic scored twice each. Marko Bijac was excellent in goal, stopping 14 of 25 shots.

Spain had bested Serbia for the bronze medal at last summer’s World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. Croatia was a disappointing ninth at that tournament.

Spain, a three-time world champion and the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, won its first ever European Championship. The Spanish had medaled in each of the previous three tournaments and had lost its three appearances in the gold-medal match.

Croatia was vying for its third European championship. The Croats have at least made the semifinals in 11 of its last 15 tournaments.

Italy earned the bronze medal with a 12-7 win over Hungary, the reigning world champ. Marco Del Lungo made nine saves as the Italians ran out to an 8-3 halftime lead. Andrea Fondelli was 3-for-3 shooting. Oscar Gonzalo Echenique added a hat trick, and Giacomo Cannella scored twice.

Vince Vigvari led Hungary with three goals.

Greece rode four goals from Konstantinos Genidounias for a 15-10 win over Montenegro in the fifth-place match. Nikolaos Gkillas added a hat trick for the Worlds silver medalist.

Serbia routed Romania, 18-7, for seventh place. Dusan Mandic and Dorde Lazic were each 4-for-4 shooting from the field. Marko Radulovic paired two goals with three assists.

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