The qualifications for the 33rd European Water Polo Championships (July, 14 – 18) have been finished. Matches of the second leg in men’s and women’s playoffs were played this weekend.
Favourites didn’t let surprises. The championships in Barcelona will see only one newcomer. The women’s team of Israel will compete at the main European stage for the first time in the history.
Almost all questions in men’s playoffs were answered after the 1st leg. Only two duels had been open before the return leg. A week ago Belarus beat Malta 8:7 in Minsk, while the encounter between Ukraine and Turkey in Kharkiv (Ukraine) ended with no winner (8:8).
In the second leg, Malta water polo players didn’t leave the decision too late convincingly beating Belarus in the game staged in their home pool in Gzira. Malta led 5:1 in the first period. Everything became clear early in the third quarter. Malta, boosted by top scorer of 2016 European Championships Steve Camilleri (7 goals), jumped to a 10:5 lead and never looked back (16:9). Malta will take place at the continental championships for the second time in the history, after 15th place in Belgrade two years ago.
Last-ranked team at 2016 European Championships Turkey controlled the second match against Ukraine from the beginning. Until the last period the gap was never larger than two goals. Ukraine water polo players fought hard, but when Turkey earned a 4-goal lead (10:6), minute and a half before the end, there was no way back for the visitors.
France, Romania, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia achieved new convincing victories. The five sides (ranked 9th- 13th at the previous Championships in Belgrade) proved that they are not in the same weight-category with their respective opponents. Georgia (14th in Belgrade 2016) had no problems in the duel with Israel. After a 12:1 win in Tbilisi, the Geogrians didn’t show all they could in Netanya, but they beat the rival for the second time (11:10).
The women’s play-offs were more interesting.
Israel women squad will be the only team that will make its debut at the European Championships. After beating Portugal in the 1st leg (14:10) in Netanya two weeks ago, Israel achieved another victory, this time as the visiting team in Oeiras (11:9).
Turkey defeated and eliminated Slovakia thanks to a big comeback in the finish of the return game. The first encounter, played in Kosice, ended in a draw 11:11. The Slovaks led 8:7 at the end of the third period and they were 9:8 up in the middle of the fourth quarter of the match in Istanbul. The hosts scored two goals in the finish to take a ticket to Barcelona (10:9).
Serbia water polo players earned a slim two-goal advantage in the first match against Ukraine (10:8) in their own pool. They played much better in Ukraine. The home team its only goal scored in the 8th minute (1:2). In the following three periods, Serbia “built a wall” in front of its goal and achieved a 6:1 win.
The upset of the day was produced by Romania, which beat Germany (9:6), but the win didn’t mean a lot for the Romanians, because Germany demolished them in the first match (22:14).
France and Croatia , as well as Serbia and Israel, beat their respective opponents in both matches.
33rd European Water Polo Championships, Qualifications
MEN, Play-offs, 2nd leg
Switzerland-France 5:12 (1:3, 1:3, 3:3, 0:3), played in Uster, 1st leg 1:18
Czech Republic-Romania 6:17 (1:5, 1:4, 1:3, 3:5), played in Brno, 1st leg 5:20
Germany-Poland 23:6 (6:1, 6:0, 7:1, 4:4), played in Dusserdolf 1st leg 21:2
Lithuania-The Netherlands 6:14 (1:4, 0:5, 2:3, 3:2), played in Alytus, 1st leg 7:28
Slovakia – Portugal 9:2 (1:0, 4:0, 3:1, 1:1), played in Kosice, 1st leg 16:4
Israel-Georgia 10:11 (4:5, 2:4, 3:2, 1:0), played in Netanya, 1st leg 1:12
Malta-Belarus 16:9 (5:2, 3:3, 5:2, 3:2), played in Gzira, 1st leg 7:8
Turkey-Ukraine 10:7 (3:1, 0:2, 2:0, 5:4), played in Istanbul, 1st leg 8:8.
Already qualified:title-holder Serbia Montenegro, , Hungary, Croatia Russia, Italy, Greece and Spain.
WOMEN, Play-offs, 2nd leg
Turkey – Slovakia 10:9 (4:2, 1:1, 2:5, 3:1), played in Istanbul, 1st leg 11:11.
Croatia – Czech Republic 14:9 (4:1, 4:1, 2:4, 4:3), played in Zagreb, 1st leg 9:6
Portugal – Israel 9:11 (3:4, 3:4, 2:2, 1:1), played in Oeiras, 1st leg 10:14
Ukraine – Serbia 1:6 (1:2, 0:2, 0:1, 0:1), played in Kharkiv, 1st leg 8:10
Romania – Germany 9:6 (2:3, 2:2, 2:1, 3:0), played in Izvorani, 1st leg 14:22
Switzerland – France 3:16 (2:1, 1:5, 0:6, 0:4), played in Uster, 1st leg 1:19
Already qualified: Title-holder Hungary, the Netherlands, Russia, Greece, Italy and Spain.
The draw for the Championships will be held in Barcelona on Wednesday (7 March). In the preliminary competition the 16 male squads will be split into four groups of four teams. Women will compete in two groups of six teams.
Rankings at the 32nd European Championships (Belgrade 2016)