Serbia: triumphant start in front of 11,000 fans
Water polo was lifted to a new level on Sunday: the last game of the opening day of the 32nd European Championships showed this sport from a different perspective as 11,000 fans filled the stands of the Kombank Arena while Serbia and Croatia produced a great game. This was the highest ever attendance in the history of the Europeans.
Transforming the Kombank Arena into a giant pool already proved to be brilliant choice of the organisers. At the opening ceremony LEN President Paolo Barelli praised the locals in his speech accordingly: “We are grateful for the Serbian Government, for the City of Belgrade and for the Serbian Water Polo Federation for doing their very best to host a really memorable event. This nation, may I say, is crazy for water polo and we do see how great efforts you’ve made to ensure the highest level in all areas. From LEN’s point of view it’s always a great satisfaction to work with dedicated professionals – and here, in Belgrade this is the case.”
State President Tomislav Nikolic, Minister of Youth and Sports Vanja Udovicic and Serbian Water Polo Federation President Milorad Krivokapic were all convinced to see a great event in the next two weeks which would also boost the development and popularity of Serbian water polo.
The first storm of applause went to Dusko Pijetlovic, who, together with Italy’s Roberta Bianconi were voted the best European players in 2015 and received their respective LEN Awards from LEN President Paolo Barelli and Sport Minister Vanja Udovicic.
Then the world-beater national team didn’t disappoint its fans either: the title-holders opened their campaign with a convincing performance against Croatia. This match-up was a worthy start for this great event, though the visitors couldn’t keep up the Serbs too long – just as it happened last summer in the World Championship final in Kazan where they went down 11-4. Though the Croats scored first with a fine distance shot from Andelo Setka but the Serbs hit back soon and jumped to a 1-3 lead by the end of the first period as their rivals missed three man-ups in the first eight minutes.
Dusan Mandic’s hat-trick further widened the gap and even though Luka Loncar pulled one back for 3-5 but two unanswered Serbian goals put the writing on the wall by half-time (3-7) while Croatian goalie Josip Pavic seemed to run out from miracles. Things turned from bad to worse for the Croats soon, they couldn’t set up clear shooting chances while the hosts enjoyed an easy cruise, ending in a 13-6 win.
It was a fitting result after all, since the opening day had already witnessed a series of one-sided matches. In the men’s tournament Spain thrashed Slovakia within two periods, rushing to a 10-2 lead and sat back for the rest of the game which whistled off at 13-4. In the other match in Group A Montenegro beat the Netherlands 13-6, here the damage was done in eight minutes when the favourites got a 5-0 lead. Aleksandar Radovic was the top-scorer for the Montenegrins with 4 goals.
In Group B, beside the Serbs’ triumph, France taught a lesson for the newcomers of the event, Malta, the Gauls won 17-7 with Ugo Crousillat netting 5 goals.
In the women’s event the Greeks downed Portugal 27-3, Christina Tsoukala and Alexandra Asimaki scored 5 apiece. The Russians were merciless with the women’s newcomer, Turkey, it was a 29-0 rout, Anastasia Simanovich netted 5 and three more players hit 4.
More excitements were expected from the clash of the Netherlands and Hungary (the silver and bronze medallists of the last edition) but the Dutch were superior in the first 20 minutes, earned a 11-3 lead and even though the Magyars started to climb back they could only come closer but never endangered their rivals’ win. Yasemin Smit led the Dutch attacks she scored an amazing 6 goals.
Results, Day 1
Spain v Slovakia 13-4, Montenegro v Netherlands 13-6
Croatia v Serbia 6-13, France v Malta 17-7
Portugal v Greece 3-27, Russia v Turkey 29-0, Netherlands v Hungary 14-10
Press release from LEN
Images courtesy of Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia