Italy and Hungary on top, Greece sinks to 3rd place
Italy sailed through in Group C matches as expected while Hungary finished atop in Group D after the Greeks couldnâ€™t widen the gap enough against Russia to better their goal difference, whatâ€™s more they went down by the end and had to settle for the third place. The womenâ€™s tournament didnâ€™t see too much excitements, the last goal of the host Serbs from 17 metres against title-holder Spain was the special highlight of the day.
Without any serious challenger in the quartet, Italy comfortably won Group C â€“ they came up with really convincing performances against Germany and Romania while even their head coach, Alessandro Campagna was reluctant to analyse their latest win over Georgia as their opponent rather opted to reserve their energy for the following matches (which even angered their own coach a bit). Francesco di Fulvio scored 4 goals during the one-sided contest, ending in a 21-1 win for the Settebello.
The game for the second place in the group brought sheer excitements, with a load of twists and turns. The Germans took the lead, the Romanians hit back with three connecting goals for 1-3, but by the middle of the second period the Germans were ahead again at 5-4 â€“ only to see the Romanians taking the lead by half-time 5-6.
The third was like a showdown in the wild west, shot after shot, goal after goal, the lead exchanged constantly, still, after 10 goals within eight minutes the landscape looked the same (10-11). Soon it changed, the Germans rushed forward, took the lead twice, with 3:05 to go they were 13-12 up â€“ but Romania had the last laugh, first they equalised then Alexandru Ghibanâ€™s brilliant blast sealed the win for them with 18 seconds to go (13-14). Though Julian Real and Mateo Cuk netted 4 apiece for the Germans, it was not enough this time â€“ Romaniaâ€™s top player, Cosmin Radu scored 4 goals (from 4 shots!).
In Group D Hungary ate Turkey for breakfast (the game was played from 9.30 in the morning), beat their opponent with 20-5 and they were still slightly disappointed since it was inevitable that the goal-difference might decide the top spot between them and the Greeks (after their 8-8 tie in the opening round). With Denes Varga offering some tasting from his brilliant skills while scoring 6, the Magyars still managed to put the Greeks under pressure: in the evening their rivals started the match against Russia knowing they needed a 7-goal win to secure the first place.
The Greek plans didnâ€™t work out, time-wise they were constantly behind: didnâ€™t lead after one period (2-2), not even at half-time (4-4). The young Russian team fought bravely, produced some superb goals and even was 6-5 up in the third. Still, towards the end of this quarter the Greeks found a fantastic rhythm and during their best spell of the match they scored three great action goals in a span of 78 seconds to go 6-8 up.
But as in boxing, the break saved the Russians and they managed to come back with refreshed minds, stroke first in the fourth and that broke the Greeks visibly. After missing the next man-up they might even have devoted a thought or two to the knock-out phase and in the process they sank completely. Russia won the last period 3-0 and got the match and the second place as well with 9-8. The Greeks left the scene with sadness on their faces, perhaps the only good news is that by coming third they meet Romania and will most probably face Spain in the quarters instead of Serbia, the eventual opponent of the second placed side of this group.
The womenâ€™s tournament turned into a scoring festival once more, the matches brought 75 goals. The Italian fans didnâ€™t have to sweat from the excitements this Friday: before the menâ€™s team whitewashing of the Georgians, the Setterosa set a new single-game scoring record of the tournament with a 31-2 win over Croatia. In fact this was the second match ever seeing a team scoring 30+ goals in the history of the Europeans, the Dutch hold the record with 37-1 (against Sweden) from the first edition in 1985.
France downed the Germans with surprising ease, 12-3, while Spain had no headaches against the host Serbs, winning 21-6. Still, the home crowd left the Kombank Arena quite delighted, thanks to a last-second goal of Tijana Jakovlevic, whose 17m shot from her own half stunned the keeper â€“ and generated some funny mimics even on the faces of the Spanish bench-players.
Results, Day 6
Georgia v Italy 1-21, Germany v Romania 13-14
1. Italy 9, 2. Romania 6, 3. Germany 3, 4. Georgia 0
Hungary v Turkey 20-5, Russia v Greece 9-8
1. Hungary 7, 2. Russia 6, 3. Greece 4, 4. Turkey 0
Eight-finals (according to the break-down)
Spain v Malta, Romania v Greece â€“ Serbia v Slovakia, Russia v Germany â€“ Italy v Turkey, Montenegro v France â€“ Hungary v Georgia, Croatia v Netherlands
Italy v Coratia 31-2, France v Germany 12-3, Serbia v Spain 6-21
1. Spain 9, 2. Italy 9, 3. France 3, 4. Germany 3, 5. Serbia 3, 6. Croatia 0
Press release from LEN
Images courtesy of Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia