Women’s Water Polo: Israel Upsets France, Greece Edges Hungary on Day 1 of Euros

2022 European Water Polo Championships

  • August 27 – September 10, 2022
  • Spaladium Arena
    • Split, Croatia

Israel pulled out its biggest win yet against France and Greece stunned Hungary in the final seconds as the 2022 European Water Polo Championships kicked off with six women’s matches on Saturday in Split, Croatia. 

Absent from the tournament this year is Russia, which won’t be defending its silver medal from the 2020 edition because the nation remains banned from international competition due to its ongoing war against Ukraine. Russia’s exclusion opened up the door for Romania to make its first-ever Euros appearance this year.

The last time Split hosted the event 41 years ago, only the men competed. 

Women’s Round 1, Group B

Israel 8, France 7

Israel used a huge performance by goalkeeper Ayelet Peres and a clutch third period to rally past France for a one-goal victory in the evening showdown. 

After falling behind 2-0 in the first 38 seconds of action, Israel bounced back to cut the deficit to 3-2 by the end of the first period. France pushed its advantage to 5-3 in the second period before Israel converted a penalty to make it a one-goal game at halftime. 

The French went cold in the third period on both ends of the pool. They conceded four unanswered goals — including in the span of 76 seconds — as their scoring drought extended throughout the entire period. The momentum swing left Israel ahead 8-5 heading into the final period. 

It wasn’t until less than two minutes remained in the fourth period that France finally ended its 17-minute scoring drought courtesy of a deep shot by Audrey Daule. With just under a minute to play, France scored off a steal to battle back within a goal down 8-7. France secured another steal about 30 seconds later, but they couldn’t get a shot off in the final seconds as Israel escaped with a 9-8 win. 

“We can say that so far this was Israel’s biggest win in its water polo history,” said Israel head coach Dimitrios Mavrotas. “We lost twice to the French at the previous two championships and that prevented us from making the quarterfinals. Today we proved that we are constantly developing. This game showed that our team is now capable of playing a great match with a team like France. We prepared a lot for this game, we focused on organizing our defense well and that was the key today. Our goalkeeper did a great job, she is our captain, a great leader, but the other girls also had a fantastic game. We stuck to the game plan, delivered it well, apart from the last three minutes when there was a bit of craziness but at the end we managed to win the match.”

It marked Israel’s victory on a major international stage after beating Germany and Croatia at the 2020 Euros. 

“It was a very tough game,” Peres said. “We didn’t open the match well but then we knew how to come back in the second half of the match. It’s not the first time we have done it — we already beat them in the qualifications. Now we need to come strong in the next matches. Our aim is to finish third in our group.”

France faces Serbia on Sunday while Israel takes on Slovakia. 

Women’s Round 1, Group A

Greece 9, Hungary 8

After Hungary scored the first four goals of the final period to take an 8-6 lead, the Plevritou sisters responded with three goals in the last two minutes to carry Greece to a comeback victory. 

Margarita Plevritou capitalized on a 6-on-5 opportunity to cut Greece’s deficit in half before Vasiliki Plevritou tied the game on a 5-on-4 chance. With just five seconds remaining, Elefteria Plevritou netted the game-winner with a clinical lob. The flurry of three goals by the Greeks came on the heels of a 12-minute scoring drought, just enough in the nick of time. 

“It’s very hard to start the European Championships again such a great team like Hungary,” Greece head coach Alexia-Anna Kammenou said. “They won the silver medal at the Worlds. It was a hectic game, there were a lot of ups-and-downs but I think for us the third quarter was a critical point. Then at the end of the last period somehow we managed to score more goals than Hungary.”

Hungarian head coach Attila Biro said his squad needs to improve every part of its game if it wants to come out on top against the Netherlands on Sunday. 

“This game was very bad, both our attack and defense was so weak,” Biro said. “If we would like to win any game here, we obviously need to improve every part of our game. With this performance, we will lose against Netherlands so we need to do better. Of course, I changed some players in some positions, but I thought the experienced players would help a lot for the team, however, today they did not perform well. I cannot say any positive thing about this match.”

Greece plays Romania on Sunday before taking on the Netherlands on Tuesday. 

“We had a nice start of the game,” said Vasiliki Plevritou, who tallied the late equalizer. “We wanted to win this match to open the Championships with a win. We want to continue this way. I knew that we would win this match even when they came back with three goals in a row. Tomorrow we have an easier game, and then we face the Netherlands — there we want to win again. It is important if we want to be first or second in the group in order to secure easier cross-matches. We are very positive for these Europeans. We are ready!”

Women’s Round 1, Group A

Netherlands 22, Croatia 6

The Netherlands scored 15 seconds after the opening whistle, poured on 10 more unanswered goals, and cruised past host Croatia en route to a blowout win.

“After the World Championships we had a two week holiday and after that we started to prepare for the European Championships,” Netherlands head coach Evangelos Doudesis said. “It’s a very long season and we need to take care about our energy. Today we played well, but we need to improve some points of our play but we have enough time for that. We will do our best and try to go to the final.”

Croatia finally got on the board with three goals in 76 seconds to trim its deficit to 11-3 in the second period, but the Dutch answered with three more before halftime to crush any hopes of a comeback. 

“This is a very exciting beginning, to play the first match against the host team is always nice,” Netherlands captain Sabrina van der Sloot. “I think we did well today and the game was a kind of test for the whole team in order to be ready for the next matches. It was really nice to play against Croatia, to feel the atmosphere of the venue and to get used to the pool.”

The Netherlands will face off against rival Hungary on Sunday while Croatia will take on Germany in a key matchup for the host nation. 

“This was the hardest rival to start the Championships with,” Croatian captain Ivana Butic said. “This is the first time that this team is playing together. We literally got together with some of our juniors for ten days in Sibenik and that was it. I think we played well. We used the chances we were given. Now we have to forget about this match. For us, the key match in the preliminary round is the next one against Germany, and that is what we are focused on now. It will determine our position in the group and where we go from there at this Europeans.”

Women’s Round 1, Group A

Germany 15, Romania 10

With the score knotted at 9-9 heading into the final period, Germany scored the first three goals of the fourth to pull away from the Romanians in their Euros debut. 

In Romania’s first major tournament debut, they faltered down the stretch, scoring just twice in the last 11 minutes. The country nearly made the 2020 edition before losing in a penalty shootout to Germany in the qualifications. The Germans also eliminated Romania in 2018. 

“This is our first European Championship, so the team needs experience for sure,” Romanian head coach Berttini-Andrei Nenciu. “Romania I feel a bit sorry for the players to lose the match in the final period. It was about the focus, they lost it for the last quarter and that led to defeat. I don’t think it was the energy level though you obviously got tired as the game goes by and there is a connection between your energy and focus, still, I think this was more about the loss of concentration than tiredness.”

Germany’s left-handed standout, Belen Vosseberg, scored seven of the first nine goals of the game for her nation. 

“The first game at any championships, especially when you have to play it in the morning, is always hard,” German coach Sven Schulz said. “It’s about finding your rhythm, the right pace and it took some time for us to reach the necessary level. Yes, Vosseberg is one of our best players, but we are trusting all of our players equally, it’s just about having more experienced ones and younger ones and in difficult situations experience can help a lot. All in all, we are satisfied, and now we need to focus our next match (against Croatia), which is the most important game for us in the prelims.”

After the victory, Vosseberg discussed her late-game strategy while also shedding light on the financial challenges that Germany’s team faced leading up to Euros this year. 

“We knew that we could break them at the end. I think we are better physically,” Vosseberg said. “We played a very strong last quarter. We used our counter-attacks which are our strength and the fact that we were faster. On the other hand, we struggled a bit with our 6 on 6. In the end, I think we were the stronger team but it was tougher compared to the game we played against them in the qualifiers. Women’s water polo is not popular in Germany so our Federation didn’t have the money to send us here and we decided to do a crowdfunding campaign. The goal was to reach 50,000€. In the end we got 43,000€ and then the Federation added the remaining 7,000. For that same reason we only had preparations for a few days before coming here to the Europeans.”

Women’s Round 1, Group B

Spain 32, Serbia 3

After losing to the eventual champion U.S. squad in the quarterfinals of the World Championships in June, Spain looked hungry to defend its Euros title. The Spaniards exploded for 32 goals, the highest total on the first day. 

It took Spain four minutes to get on the board, but once they did, the floodgates opened. They jumped out to an 8-0 lead and stretched it to 14-3 at halftime. Spain’s accuracy was on display as 18 of its 21 shots were on target in the first half. By early in the third period, 10 out of 11 field players had already scored for Spain, and Pili Pena checked the final box with a goal in the fourth period. 

“Today we did a perfect combination between the new and young girls and the experienced ones, and it was fantastic,” Pena said. “The team works as one, and this is what we wanted to achieve. Beginning a big competition like this is perfect. Matches like this are the best way to start. It’s like a test — all of us scored and we finished with great and good feelings.”

Spain has a huge showdown against Italy on Sunday. 

“We took the game very seriously as we have to be ready for tomorrow when we have our big match with Italy,” Spanish head coach Miguel Oca. “The game went as it was expected and I think it served us well to get ready for the next match.”

Women’s Round 1, Group B

Italy 26, Slovakia 1

Italy had a similar experience as Spain, speeding out to a 14-1 lead at halftime that set the tone for a blowout win before its showdown against the Spaniards on Sunday. 

Italy’s 26 goals on the first day ranked second behind only Spain. Like Spain, Italy spread around the scoring, getting 10 of its 11 field players on the board before halftime. 

“I can say that it was an easy match,” Italian head coach Carlo Silipo said. “We scored a lot, but most important is that we won easily. It’s hard to say anything about how the team is working because we could not try a lot of things against Slovakia, but I think it was a good training for us. We’ll watch the video of the match and try to improve ourselves for the game tomorrow. Obviously, the game against Spain will be a harder match and we are preparing for that.”

“We broke the ice at these European Championships,” Italian captain Valeria Palmieri added. “Tomorrow we are playing an important game against Spain for the top position in our group, and for the rest of the tournament. We are hoping for the best and can hardly wait for it.”

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About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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