Great Britain, Croatia, France and Hungary complete quarterfinal line-up

Credit: European Aquatics

The quarterfinal line-ups were completed on Monday after a thrilling fourth day of action at the European Championships in Eindhoven. Great Britain upset Israel by winning the first penalty shootout of the tournament to progress in dramatic fashion, while there were also victories for Croatia, France and Hungary.

Crossover results
Croatia 11-8 Serbia
Israel 13-14* Great Britain (*4-5P)
France 14-6 Germany
Hungary 27-4 Czechia

After a decade away in the international wilderness, Great Britain are thoroughly enjoying their return to Europe’s top table and made it four wins from four in Eindhoven after winning a sensational contest with Israel (13-14) in the second crossover game on Monday.

Penalties were eventually needed to separate the two teams after an action-packed four quarters that saw Israel keep edging ahead throughout, but Great Britain dug deep and refused to lie down.

Three times Israel went two clear, 3-1 in the first, then 7-5 and 8-6 in the third.

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Coach Nick Buller called time-outs at 3-1 and 7-5, stopping Israel’s momentum and his players reacted superbly, soon levelling for 3-3, then 8-8 shortly before the final quarter.

In the last eight minutes, Israel, who were missing the suspended Alma Yaacobi, retook the lead when Semone Hila Futorian hammered in from distance, yet they seemed destined never to shake Great Britain off.

Toula Falvey, a menace on 2m all tournament, troubled Israel’s defence throughout, and with 3:40 left to play, she muscled ahead of her defender to smash the ball in for 9-9.

That was the final goal of a pulsating encounter, but there was more drama to follow in the shootout.           

After three rounds of perfect shots, Great Britain keeper Sophie Jackson deflected Dina Namakshtansky’s penalty over the crossbar to open up the door for a historic British victory.

Annie Clapperton made no mistake with her effort, then Amelia Peters calmly arrowed her penalty into the corner to spark wild celebrations in and out of the pool.

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“We went down so many times, but we kept coming back and getting big stops in our defence,” commented Great Britain goalkeeper Sophie Jackson after the game.

“This is something we’ve always dreamed of doing, since the team was reformed. I think the team’s effort really caused the win.

“I haven’t quite comprehended it yet. Personally, I think it definitely wasn’s my best game. But the team really stepped in with some huge blocks.”

Great Britain now face the daunting task of taking on the world champions and hosts Netherlands in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, but if they can win one of their remaining three games, they’ll qualify for next month’s World Championships in Doha.

The shock defeat for Israel means they miss the chance to qualify for the worlds, and closes the door on their hopes of appearing at the Paris Olympics.

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In Monday’s opening crossover game, Croatia pulled off a stunning late comeback against neighbours Serbia to book the first quarterfinal place on offer.

Serbia’s Ana Milicevic has been one of the star forwards of this championships and she helped get her team off to a strong start against Croatia, firing in twice in the opening eight minutes.

Hristina Ilic, Anja Svec, Sesilija Diaz Mesa and Jovana Radonjic were also among the goals as Serbia built up what appeared to be a comfortable 6-4 lead at the turnaround.

Milicevic added two more to her tournament tally (now 16) in the second half, but the tide had begun to turn in the third, which Croatia won 2-1 to close the gap to one (6-7) with eight minutes remaining.

Jelena Butic instantly levelled for 7-7, then Iva Rozic put Croatia 8-7 up to knock Serbia off their stride.

Milicevic did level for 8-8, but the momentum was now with the Croats, who remained calm and Jelena Butic was the coolest player in the stadium when she lobbed in from distance to regain the lead with just over two minutes left to play.

Serbia were scrambling to find a way back, which created space for Croatia to exploit, with Iva Rozic benefitting first as she was left alone to wind up a shot she smashed into the bottom left corner for 10-8.

A Croatian breakaway then resulted in a late penalty, which Jelena Butic fired in to seal the memorable victory and confirm a quarterfinal clash with title holders Spain.

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“At the start, we kept getting contrafouls, with no exclusions on their side,” commented Croatia’s Kiara Brnetic after the game.

“So, we were struggling, but we knew that the game has four quarters and we have to play out until the last minute. We stuck to our plan and finally we made it.

“We now look forward to the games we have ahead and try to make the most of our time left here, we want to win as many games as we can, and hopefully qualify for the World Championships.”

The day’s third crossover clash saw France beat Germany 14-6 to set up a quarterfinal with Greece.

Camelia Bouloukbachi caused most of the damage, scoring five as the 2024 Olympic hosts dominated proceedings against Germany.

France led 4-1 after the first, then 9-3 at the turnaround.

Germany, who had struggled in attack against Great Britain the day before, again had problems in front of goal, scoring six from 23, while France hit 14 from 29.

The third quarter followed a similar path, with France bossing the game and moving the score out to 13-5.

By then, the result was beyond doubt and France were able to ease up in the final eight minutes and turn their attentions to tomorrow’s final eight. 

Germany, meanwhile, will now prepare to face Serbia in Tuesday’s 9th-12th semifinals.

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In the day’s final crossover, Hungary swept Czechia aside 27-4.

It was an expected one-sided affair, and a much tougher task now awaits the Magyars tomorrow in the shape of Italy.

After their defensive issues in the opening two games – conceding 14 against Greece and the Netherlands – the quarterfinal with Italy will prove whether today’s clash and yesterday’s against Croatia has mended a few cracks.

Finishing third in Group A meant there was no rest for Hungary, instead another chance to work on their shooting, as all 11 outfield players found the net, with Dorottya Szilagyi, Rebecca Parkes and Kamilla Farago top scoring with four each.

While Hungary will face Italy in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, Czechia will face Israel in the 9th-12th classification semifinals.

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In the morning’s 13th-16th classification games, Türkiye and Romania emerged victorious after beating Slovakia and Bulgaria respectively.

Registering their first win of the tournament, Türkiye fought back from 5-2 down in the opening quarter to triumph 10-13.

After building up a 5-2 lead, Slovakia were rocked in the second quarter, as goals from Elif Gurelli, Dilara Burali and captain Kubra Kus levelled the scores at 5-5.

Türkiye went on to win the period 1-4 and – inspired by further goals from Kus and Burali – they also edged the third (2-3) and fourth (2-4) to book their place in Tuesday’s 13th-14th final.

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Türkiye’s opponents will be Romania, who comfortably brushed winless Bulgaria aside 6-18 in Monday’s other 13th-16th classification semi.

A five-goal rush in the first set the tone as Romania took total control.

After three heavy defeats in the prelims, Bulgaria again struggled in defence and 0-5 grew to 3-13 at the turnaround, then 5-16 after the third.

Romania’s Alina-Ioana Olteanu impressed again in attack, leading the scoring with seven, which takes her tally to 19 – the highest in entire tournament so far.

Both the 13th-14th and 15th-16th finals will be repeats of Sunday’s group games, which ended Romania 9-7 Türkiye and Slovakia 23-8 Bulgaria.