Women’s teams of Germany, Croatia, and Israel are very close to the 33rd European Championships in Barcelona. The three teams achieved big wins in the first leg of the ECH qualifications play-offs. Serbia built a small advantage before the return leg.
The only visiting team that won the game in the 1st leg was Croatia, which played against the Czech Republic in Prague. The Croats led throughout the match, but they secured an important win in the 4th quarter. They led 5:4 after the third period. Croatia scored four unanswered goals in a span of 3:04 minutes in the middle of the final period and jumped to a 9:4 lead. The Czech team netted two goals in the last 34 seconds to save a slim hope before the return leg (6:9).
Germany already booked its ticket to Barcelona. The Germans were too strong for Romania in the match played in Hamburg. The visiting team managed to hold until the middle of the third period. Germany was 11:8 up in the 20th minute, but the hosts soon rushed to a six-goal lead (15:9). In a flood of goals, the Germans expanded the margin to 6 goals at the end – 22:14.
An encounter in Bratislava offered the most thrilling finish of the day. Slovakia led for most of the time and it earned a three-goal advantage in the third period (8:5). The hosts maintained the gap in the following minutes. Three minutes before the end, the Turks trailed 8:11. But, the finish belonged to them. The visitors, led by Kus Kabra (seven goals), netted three consecutive goals by the final buzzer and secured an 11:11 draw, that gives them nice chances to reach the European Championships.
Israel recorded a four-goal victory against Portugal (14:10) in Tel Aviv and made a big step toward its first appearance at the European Championships. The match was pretty balanced in the opening minutes and in the second half. The second quarter proved vital in the win of the team of Israel. After the first eight minutes, the score was 2:2. In the second period, Israel built a crucial advantage. The hosts were 7:3 up at halftime. Portugal scored two goals early in the third period (7:5), but Israel soon earned a safe 5-goal lead (10:5) and kept the advantage until the end.
Serbia was a favorite in the encounter with Ukraine in Novi Sad. But, the visitors didn’t let Serbia win with ease. The home team had a three-goal advantage early in the third period (5:2). Ukraine was able to come back and to equal the score (5:5). Serbia produced a 5:1 rush and it was 10:6 up in the middle of the fourth period, but the Ukrainians netted two goals in a span of 67 seconds and stayed in the race for spots at the ECH in Barcelona. Serbia won 10:8.
The 1st match of the playoff clash France – Switzerland will be played on 24 February. The two nations were drawn against each other in the men’s qualifications too, so the men’s clash and the women’s encounter will be played in the same programme in Limoges next weekend. Two matches at the same pool will be staged in Switzerland too.
The 33rd European Water Polo Championships will be held in Barcelona (14 -18 July 2018). Six winners of the playoff duels will join the teams that were ranked from the 1st to the 6th place at the European Championships in Belgrade two years ago: Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Greece, and Spain
European Championships qualifications playoffs
Women, 1st leg
Slovakia – Turkey 11:11 (4:3, 1:2, 3:1, 3:5)
Czech Republic – Croatia 6:9 (1:4, 1:0, 2:1, 2:4)
Israel – Portugal 14:10 (2:2, 5:1, 4:4, 3:3)
Serbia – Ukraine 10:8 (1:1, 3:1, 3:3, 3:3)
Germany – Romania 22:14 (5:3, 5:3, 6:5, 6:3)
France – Switzerland on 24 February
Second leg: 3 March.
Already qualified: Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Greece, and Spain
Men, 1st leg (24 February).
France – Switzerland
Romania – The Czech Republic
Poland – Germany
The Netherlands – Lithuania
Georgia – Israel
Portugal – Slovakia
Belarus – Malta
Ukraine – Turkey
Second leg: 3 March
Already qualified: Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Russia.