Women’s European Water Polo Championships: Spain Knocks Off Hungary

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Host Spain opened its campaign with a convincing 13-9 win against title-holder Hungary in the women’s tournament. Russia nearly equaled the Netherlands’ single-game scoring record of 37 goals from 1985 while netting 35 against Turkey.

The opening day already offered a late night show when the champions of the last two editions, 2014 winner Spain and 2016 winner Hungary clashed.

The game was decided by the 6 on 5 conversions, Spain made 6 out of 7 in the first three periods while the Hungarians were 0 for 6. That gave the host an 8-5 lead before the final eight minutes as the Magyars ran out from the action goals in the last 4:42 minutes in the third. The trends didn’t change significantly so some 2,000 spectators could celebrate a fine win for the host side. Maica Garcia did a great job in front of the goal, scored 4, earned two penalties and numerous man-ups and Beatriz Ortiz also enjoyed an outstanding evening with 6 goals.

In the other close call of the opening day Germany came from behind to beat Serbia 9-8. Just like two years ago on the opening day, when they won a thrilling battle 14-13, this contest was also a nailbiter. The Serbs held a 7-4 lead in the third but could score only once in the remaining 12:11 minutes. Germany netted four connecting goals and even if the Serbs could go even at 8-8, but their rivals netted the winner 3:26 from time.

The remaining matches were one-sided contests as expected. Greece overcame some minor headaches against France while the Netherlands slammed Croatia, just like Italy did with Israel upon the latter one’s debut. Russia became the second team to go over 30 goals in the history of the Europeans while beating Turkey 35-4 (Ekaterina Prokofyeva led the charge with 7 goals from as many shots). In fact, they almost equalled the scoring record of the Netherlands which had been set in the first edition in 1985 when the Dutch routed Sweden 37-1.


European Championships, Day 1

Women, Round 1

Group A

Netherlands v Croatia 21-1

Israel v Italy 2-21

France v Greece 5-12


Group B

Russia v Turkey 35-4

Serbia v Germany 8-9

Hungary v Spain 9-13


Women, Round 1 – Group A: Netherlands v Croatia 21-1

Arno Havenga, head coach, Netherlands

“The first game is always nervous, we had to concentrate well. Tomorrow we have another game and we need to continue this way.”

Sabrina Van der Sloot, Player, Netherlands

“It was an amazing game today. I think we did well. The first game is always exciting.”

Dragan Matutinovic, head coach, Croatia:

“This was expected. We now move onto the next game against France on Sunday. We have to play a better game. Our goal is to reach the top 8. It will be difficult but it’s not impossible. This defeat won’t have an impact psychologically.”

Petra Bukic, player, Croatia:

“We expected something like this… There is a huge difference quality-wise. They blocked us with strong pressing. Now we have to think about how to put out our best performance and win the match against France tomorrow – as it’s not easy to lose with such big difference.”


Women, Round 1 – Group A: Israel v Italy 2-21

Fabio Conti, head coach, Italy:

“I’m satisfied, it’ s a good start for us. These are in reality two different levels of water polo. This was a good practice for us as tomorrow we have an important match against Greece.”

Giulia Emmolo, player, Italy:

“It was important for us to start well, get into the rhythm of the Championships. We played strong. Now we have to stay focused on tomorrow’s game against Greece.”

Dimitrios Mavrotas, head coach, Israel:

“This is a historical day for water polo in Israel. This is the nation’s first appearance at this level of competition. We started the game well, especially in the first quarter but as the game went on we just couldn’t keep up with their rhythm. We know our level. I’m satisfied with the performance the girls showed. We must keep improving ourselves.”

Ayelet Peres, player, Israel:

“It was hard. We tried to score goals, to push as much as we can. We know this is not our level yet but we’ll keep on trying.”


Women, Round 1 – Group B: Russia v Turkey 35-4

Andrei Belofastov, assistant coach, Russia:

“It was a game where we knew that we were favourites, so we played aggressively and attacked a lot. We scored a lot of goals today. It was a tough game and it was a very important task to play well today.”  

Hakan Sahbaz, head coach, Turkey:

“What can I say, it was a tough game. We are trying to improve.”

Kus Kübra, player, Turkey

“It was tough. We are here to learn from the experience and grow.”

Kus Kubra, captain, Turkey:

“It was a tough game, they are a strong and fast team. We are a very young team, most of the girls are under 18. We are trying to improve, learn from experience – that is our main goal in this tournament. It was a rough start but we will try to get better as we move forward.”


Women, Round 1 – Group B: Serbia v Germany 8-9

Dejan Jovović, head coach, Serbia:

“What can I say, too bad… We started off well, had 7:4 lead and instead of bringing the game to a close we started rushing and allowed the Germans to bounce back. Apparently we still need some time and tough matches to show the quality I know we possess.”

Ivana Corovic, captain, Serbia:

“We started well, but unfortunately we couldn’t keep our rate up until the end of the game, our game fell apart and we lost. The championship just started and we have more games to play, so we need to keep our heads up, though it’s a shame that we didn’t fulfill our goal at the start.”

Anja Skibba, head coach, Germany:

“It was a very hard game and they fouled a lot, but in the end we managed to win. This was my first time at the Picornell Pool, it is a fantastic pool and it is a very nice venue for the competition.”


Women, Round 1 – Group A: France v Greece 5-12

Florian Bruzzo, head coach, France:

“We played against the great team of Greece. It was the first game of the tournament so the teams are not yet ready physically, everybody is looking forward to the second week of the tournament.”

Marie Barbieux, player, France:

“We started well but after that, as we were getting tired, it got harder and harder. Greece is a very good team so we are happy to have played this match.”

Georgios Morfesis, head coach, Greece:

“This was the first game of the competition so we were a little bit nervous at the beginning, but our team is strong enough. After the second quarter we fixed some things in our defense and the result began favouring us. France as a team is growing at the moment but they need time. Now we are focused on our next game, which is an important one against Italy. For us Italy and the Netherlands are the two big rivals we have to focus on.”

Alexandra Asimaki, captain, Greece:

“We started the game a little bit nervous, it’s normal because it is the first game and you have to get in rhythm of the Championships. In the last quarter our team played better and we demonstrated that in the water. It was a good opportunity for training against France because they are also a good team and now we are looking forward to our next game, against Italy. We have to remain focused, since we want to get the 1st place in Goup A knowing how important that is.”


Women, Round 1 – Group B: Hungary v Spain 9-13

Miguel Oca, head coach, Spain

“It was a very difficult match in front our home crowd which supported us all the way. Hungary is a super strong team so I am happy that we won. Now we have to keep up and remain strong, we have four more games in the first round of the championships.”

Anna Espar, player, Spain

“It was a good start of the championships, we had a great support from our fans. We played excellent in 6 on 5s, this was the key of our victory.”

Attila Biro, head coach, Hungary

“We could solve our man-downs when we played here in the World League – this time we clearly struggled in that part. It’s a pity as we had a chance to win this game but when you got nine goals from 6 on 5s and you can’t put away yours then it ends up in a defeat for sure. Two players scored 10 goals, I cannot consider it anything else but a mistake. But this is just the first game, we will go on.”

Dora Leimeter, player, Hungary

“We did not play well our man-down defence and couldn’t score from the man-ups – this is a straight way to lose a match. We had some problems with our 6 on 5s in our recent games and we have to push our conversion over 50% if we wish to achieve something serious here.”