Group C In of the men’s tournament appears to be very, Group C seems really tight as three quality teams – title-holder Montenegro, Croatia and Greece – were drawn together. The team placed third after the prelims will face the second- seeded ranked side of in Group A, which might be either Italy or Russia – and the loser of this crossover match will miss out to reach the best final eight.
The clash between Serbia and Spain promises a mouth-watering battle as early as the group stage: these two had a showdown in the semi-final of last year’s Youth World Championships in Istanbul, and the Spaniards upended the Serbs in a penalty shootout. Many players will return to Baku for a grand rematch – setting up an occasion which fans won’t want to miss.
Hungary, winner of the world youth title in 2014, may well enjoy an easy cruise through the prelims, as they avoided a clash with any of the traditional big guns.
Nevertheless, the favourites for the men’s tournament are the teams from the former Yugoslavia. In the last edition of the LEN Junior Water Polo European Championships, in Malta, Montenegro won the title in a thrilling final against Serbia. These nations are major players in the men’s youth age-group European championships: in the past 10 editions (since 1996) nine gold medals went to either Serbia (playing under the name of Yugoslavia in the 1990s), Croatia or Montenegro; only Italy could claim first back in 2010.
As for the women, it’s interesting that the winners of the final day’s classification matches of the 2013 Europeans (held in Istanbul) came together in Group A this time. Defending champion Greece, bronze medallist Netherlands and 5th placed Hungary will stage an exciting race to reach the top spot which secures a berth in the semi-finals (while the second and third seeded sides should play a crossover game). Last summer Hungary and Greece were the top-ranked European sides in the Youth World Championships: Hungary won the bronze medal game in a penalty shootout – previously, in the semis, Greece lost by a single goal to USA, the eventual world champions.
Naturally, the encounters featuring Spain, Italy and Russia, favourites in Group B, are also ‘must-see’ matches of the Baku 2015 European Games.
“Any edition of a major European water polo event in any age-group always offers great excitement and really high-level matches,” commented LEN President Paolo Barelli regarding the draw. “I’m sure we will witness magnificent tournaments in Baku, both among the men and the women.”
Pierce O’Callaghan, Director of Sport at Baku 2015, said: “Europe is home to some of the world’s best water polo teams, including the reigning men’s Olympic champions, Croatia, and world champions Hungary, as well current world champions Spain in the women’s competition. I welcome the results of this draw, and have no doubt that the competition will be a major attraction at Baku 2015.”
Draw for the European Games
Group A: Italy, Russia, France, Ukraine
Group B: Hungary, Azerbaijan, Germany, Romania
Group C: Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Turkey
Group D: Serbia, Spain, Slovakia, Malta
Teams ranked first qualify automatically to the quarter-finals, teams ranked 2nd and 3rd will play classification matches to reach the QF.
Group A: Greece, Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, Israel, Great Britain
Group B: Spain, Italy, Russia, Slovakia, France, Serbia
Teams ranked first qualify automatically to the semi-finals, teams ranked 2nd and 3rd will play classification matches to reach the SF.