Hungary won its first title in 15 years at the 2016 Women’s European Water Polo Championship. The 12-team tournament was split into two groups of six teams where the top four advance to the quarterfinals. The winner of the tournament qualified to the Olympics. The Women’s European Water Polo Championship was held in Belgrade, Serbia from January 10th to January 22nd 2016.
Group A was won by the Netherlands whom went undefeated in the group including a 4-0 rally in the fourth quarter to win 11-10 over Greece. Despite Greece’s performance in that match losses to Hungary and Russia meant they finished fourth in the group, just enough to advance. Second place for the group came down to Hungary and Russia on the final match of the group. Hungary would jump up to a strong 6-2 lead by half-time and while Russia would mount a strong comeback in the fourth quarter Hungary was able to hold onto to second place of the group and win the match 11-10.
The top two places in Group B went to Italy and Spain. In their match held on the final day of the group stage Italy was able to hold a slim lead for most of the match winning in a close 9-8 affair. Hosts Serbia failed to reach the quarterfinals after narrowly losing to Germany and France 14-13 and 7-6 respectively. France grabbed third place in the group by defeating Germany 12-3 where they dominated for pretty much the entire match.
In the quarterfinals Italy went up 4-0 by half-time against Greece and coasted to a 10-4 win. Netherlands and Hungary thrashed Germany and France respectively to win 19-2 and 18-6 respectively. A dominant second quarter by Spain where they went 5-0 against Russia was the difference maker in their 12-8 win to advance to the semifinals.
The Netherlands and Spain match in the semi-final was very close with neither team holding much of a lead for any extended period of time. Once the match ended the game was tied 9-9 and a penalty shoot-out was required. A save in the seventh attempt by goalkeeper Laura Aarts sent Netherlands to the finals as they won the shoot-out 6-5. In the other semi-final Hungary held a bit of a lead over Italy, but a 3-0 third quarter gave Hungary the gap it needed to safely win the match 10-5.
The final was almost a stalemate as Netherlands led Hungary 5-4 at half-time. Hungary would then tie things up in the third quarter leaving the match to be decided in the final quarter. Hungary would score two unanswered goals to win the tournament and Olympic quota 9-7. Italy won the bronze medal over Spain by a score of 10-9.
Hungary will be looking to improve its fourth place finishes it has incurred over the past two Olympics, hoping to win its first ever medal in the event. All is not over for the other European nations as Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Greece and Russia have all qualified to the final qualification tournament. More nations could possibly qualify should nations from other continents withdraw.
- LEN. 2016 Women’s European Water Polo Championship. Access on January 22 2016.