Serbia storms into the final, same four reach the semis among the women
Serbia was overwhelming once more while beating Greece easily in the first semi-final of the men’s tournament. They made the final for the 6th time in the last seven editions since 2001. Among the women the same teams advanced to the top four as in Budapest 2014: the Netherlands will have a rematch of the final against Spain while Hungary and Italy will replay the bronze-medal game from the previous edition, this time for the final and a chance to qualify directly to the Olympics.
What the Greek really missed in the semi-final against Serbia were the goals of Ioannis Fountoulis. Just a week prior to the start of the Europeans these two sides met in Athens for a last test match, where the Serbs struggled to win, finally they made it (11-12) while Fountoulis offered his magic, netting 6 goals.
This evening he scored none. The Serbs took extra care of the most prolific shooter of their rivals, he tried but was limited to 3 shots and couldn’t cause any harm with them. By the end the hosts’ winning margin was exactly 6 goals.
Greece kept up in the first period, it stood 3-3 but soon the gap started to widen. The game was won by the Serbian defence, they netrualised the Greeks’ lethal weapon, their man-up play and held their rivals on a single goal for the following 19:58 minutes. They outmaneuvered them even while playing 5 on 6, the Greeks were 0 for 8 in this period in man-ups, while the well-known cannons destroyed their wall at the other end of the pool. From 3-3 they went 4-10 up, much to the joy of the capacity crowd. Dusko Pijetlovic and Filip Filipovic led the charge with 3 goals apiece and the Serbs cruised easily to the final.
Their unbeaten run stands at 29 matches at the major international tournaments now and the 30th win is in sight – the opponent is yet to be determined on Thursday when Hungary will clash Montenegro. Anyhow, the Serbs are ready to complete a hat-trick and win their third crown after 2012 and 2014 – their dominance can also be demonstrated by the fact that they reached the final of the Europeans for the 6th time in the last seven editions since 2001 (only missing it in 2010 and capturing five titles on these occasions).
In the other evening match in the men’s tourney Spain beat the Russians 10-9, it wasn’t as even as the result suggests, the Spaniards kept the game under control for most of the time and will play for the 5th place on the last day.
Winners killed all excitements in the women’s quarter-finals, even in the two most awaited matches, the clashes between Greece and Italy and between Russia and Spain. The Italians came up with something really extraordinary in defence, shutting out the Greeks in the entire first half and building a 0-4 lead. The Greeks needed 17:15 minutes to score first but the closest they came was at 2-5 – from there the Setterosa forced another 8:18 minutes of ‘silence’ on their rivals, in the meantime they netted four more for a 2-9 lead.
Gulia Gorlero was outstanding in the Italian goal, offering a 77.8% saving percentage (14 catches on 18 shots), Tania di Mario and Federica Radicchi netted 3 goals apiece. While the Italians took 24 shots only, the Greek had 30 but their shooting efficiency dropped to 13.3%… With this 4-10 win Italy secured a spot in the semis – in fact they have the longest run of reaching the top four on consecutive occasions, the count stands at 14 since 1989!
Though the opening period (2-2) of the Russia v Spain encounter promised the first real battle in the quarters but eight minutes later it was already over: the title-holders staged a breath-taking rush, won this part 5-0, leaving no way back to the Russians. The gap never went fell under three goals, Spain won 12-8 and advanced to the semis for the 4th time in the last 6 editions (since 2006). On the other hand, Russia misses the top flight for the second time in a row after enjoying 8 straight SF appearances between 1997 and 2012.
The other two quarters were rather playgrounds for the Dutch and the Hungarians. The Netherlands warmed up against Spain for a rematch of the 2014 final with a 19-2 rout of the Germans (Nomi Stomphorst netted 5). The Magyar women jumped to a 6-1 lead against the French and even though their rivals climbed back to 11-6 in the middle of the third, Hungary had a 7-0 run in the remaining 12:25 minutes. The Hungarians reached the top four for the 14th time in the 16 editions since the inauguration of the women’s Europeans in 1985 and will meet Italy in the semis.
In the lower half of the men’s tournament Slovakia easily beat Malta 17-9 and will play for the 13th place. Much more was at stake in the game between Germany and Romania: the winner secured a spot in the Olympic Qualification Tournament while the loser will possibly have to play a live-or-death match for the last available berth. The Romanians got a flying start, led 6-3 at half-time but next came the Germans and with a 0-4 whitewash in the third they took over the lead. What’s more, being 7-9 up in the fourth with 5:15 to go, they seemed a sure bet to win the match.
All of a sudden, however, the Romanians came alive, levelled the score in a span of 47 seconds, then Cosmin Radu put them ahead again at 10-9 with a brilliant centre-shot with 46 seconds to go. Still, the Romanian defenders made a mistake and Mateo Cuk pulled the ball in from close range, using an assist after a corner-throw, just in time to beat the buzzer and saving the match to a penalty-shootout. Two days ago they did the same against Slovakia and that time it paid off – but today it ended differently: the Romanians buried all four attempts, the Germans missed the last two and will have to win one more game to maintain their dreams on Rio.
Results, Day 11
Semi-final: Greece v Serbia 7-13
For places 5-8: Spain v Russia 10-9
For places 9-12: Romania v Germany 10-10, pens: 4-3
For places 13-16: Malta v Slovakia 9-17
Greece v Italy 4-10, Netherlands v Germany 19-2, Hungary v France 18-6, Russia v Spain 8-12
In the semi-finals: Netherlands v Spain, Hungary v Italy
Press release from LEN
Images courtesy of Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia