Hungarian hosts and Spanish success at the European Water Polo Championships
By Harry Deacon
Water polo saw the 2020s kick off in style in January as both the men’s and women’s European Championships took place in Budapest.
It was Serbia who looked to retain their 2018 victory in the men’s tournament, which consisted of the continent’s top 16 countries.
After easing through as top of their group, a feat also attained by Hungary, Croatia, and Italy, the holders were put straight through to the quarter-finals, avoiding the playoff round.
However, it was in this round that a repeat of the last tournament’s final took place, ending in a 10-9 victory for Spain.
The Spaniards would then edge past Croatia, booking their spot in two successive finals and proving why they are one of the world’s best.
In the other side of the knockout tree, the hosts were proving to be thriving off the home advantage, easing past Russia and Montenegro to reach their first final since 2014.
The final was a truly gripping affair with the match finishing all square at 9-9, meaning that it was down to who could hold their nerve in the penalty shootout. Rather than crumbling under the pressure, the Hungarians stood up to the challenge and lifted the trophy after an excruciatingly close 5-4 shootout score.
As for the women, it was the Netherlands who were looking to hold onto their crown. The Dutch women were amongst the favourites and glided through to the semi-finals without a hitch.
However, a rare slip up allowed a strong Russian outfit to take their place in the final. The other semi-final offered a paradox to the men’s final, with the hosts Hungary losing out to their Spanish counterparts.
Another tense final was displayed, with the match swinging 13-12 in the favour of Spain, who came from behind to win the tournament.
The tournament migrates to Croatia for the 2022 edition, where Hungary’s men will hope to add to their now 13 European Championship titles, and Spain’s women will aim to expand their period of dominance by making it three wins out of four.