Challengers of top division sides confirmed

Credit: European Aquatics

Serbia, Germany, Romania and the Netherlands will have the chance to challenge the respective third and fourth ranked sides from the top division groups in the crossovers. The clash of Serbia and France shall be the absolute highlight of the next stage.

Group C: Germany v Israel 14-8, Serbia v Malta 21-4
Final rankings: 1. Serbia 9, 2. Germany 6, 3. Malta 3, 4. Israel 0

Group D: Slovakia v Romania 7-8, Netherlands v Slovenia 23-7
Final rankings: 1. Romania 9, 2. Netherlands 6, 3. Slovakia 3, 4. Slovenia 0

Crossover match-ups, Zagreb – 10 Jan: France v Serbia (18.30), Montenegro v Germany (20.15). 11 Jan: Georgia v Romania (17.00), Greece v Netherlands (19.00)

Credit: European Aquatics

The third round in the ‘lower house’ lacked the real thrills, as the top ranks in both groups had already been determined over the first two playing days.

Advancing teams just needed to seal their ranks by winning the last matches against the respective underdogs.

And they all delivered, only the Romanians had to overcome some difficulties against Slovakia, but with a stronger fourth period they managed to land a win to enter the crossovers with three victories under their belt.

The Slovaks, without any hope for a better rank, put up a good fight and were in the lead for three periods.

Romania managed to erase the two-goal deficit by halftime, but were behind once more in the third and trailed 7-5.

Tudor-Andrei Fulea pulled one back from a man-up 42 seconds from time, but it took four more minutes to make it even in the fourth at 7-7, from a 5 on 4.

The Slovaks ran out of gas for the finish, they were unable to score in the last nine minutes of the match while Vlad-Luca Georgescu hit the winner from the perimeter with 2:31 to go.

The Slovaks missed their last 6 on 5 so they couldn’t force a shootout at the end.

Credit: European Aquatics

The Netherlands did a cleaner job against Slovenia.

In fact, they set a new single-game scoring record by hitting 23, one more than Serbia did against Israel and Italy did against Georgia.

From their rivals’ perspective, the opening period already looked bad as the Dutch hit seven goals and later in the third they managed to score eight in as many minutes.

The Slovenian defence was in ruins, they let a tournament-high 42 shots for the Netherlands, 31 on target – no wonder that the counting stopped at 23 at the end.

Credit: European Aquatics

In Zagreb, the Germans started off with a six-goal haul against Israel to shepherd the match to its expected path.

The Israelis managed to regroup themselves somewhat for the rest of the encounter and Germany’s performance level also dropped, so it turned into a joint cruising towards the inevitable end of this afternoon journey.

In the evening session, the only question was whether Malta could score against Serbia – Israel could do it once on the opening day, from a penalty in the third period.

The Maltese broke the ice much earlier, in the middle of the second from a man-up, at 8-0.

They could even find three more goals, though they couldn’t really resist the pressure the Serbs imposed across the four quarters.

After ticking the first three tasks, the Serbs’ next challenge promises a lot more excitements – a rematch of their Split crossovers against France.

Fifteen months ago, the French caused the biggest upset by beating the struggling favourite.

As a consequence, the Serbs had to settle for their worst-ever ranking, 9th, and also found themselves in the second division for this edition.

In order to switch classes, they must beat France first, before they could eye bigger things here.

In the other ties, Romania will call on Georgia, which might be a tough one too, while the other two it’s hard to see the favourites fail – world silver medallist Greece is an overwhelming favourite against the Netherlands, just like Montenegro against Germany.

Credit: European Aquatics