Great Britain, Czechia, Serbia and Germany book tickets to crossovers

Credit: European Aquatics

After another morning session packed with thrilling water polo action, four teams – Great Britain, Czechia, Serbia and Germany – confirmed their place in Monday’s crossover round by making it two wins from two, but who finishes top of Group C and Group D will be decided in a series of sensational showdowns on Sunday.

Group C: Türkiye 9-10 Czechia, Romania 4-15 Serbia
Group D:
Bulgaria 6-19 Great Britain, Slovakia 10-12 Germany

After a hard-fought late win (12-13) against Romania on day one, Czechia this time celebrated holding on to a one-goal advantage to narrowly beat Türkiye (9-10) on day two.

The victory sealed their passage to Monday’s crossover round and it was evident how much that means to the Czechia players as they embraced each other on the poolside and in the water at the end of a pulsating encounter.

An early four-goal rush, starting midway through the first quarter, helped put Czechia in charge and they were 4-7 ahead at the turnaround.  

The lead stretched to 5-9 by the end of the third, and it looked like Czechia were comfortably on course for the crossovers, but Türkiye hit back and almost pulled off a remarkable comeback in the final period.

Three goals from Kubra Kus – two penalties and a 6m deflected lob – and a penalty miss from Josefina Hola rocked Czechia to make it 8-9, then Duru Kaleagasi arrowed in a wonder goal from 6m to tie at 9-9 with just under two minutes remaining.

Czechia immediately called a time-out and the plan worked. After an exclusion, Rozalie Fugnerova scored to make it 9-10 and when Nikola Busauerova jumped in to steal the ball on 2m during Türkiye’s final attack, it was cheered and celebrated like a winning goal.

Credit: European Aquatics

“We had the game in our hands, we had a four-goal advantage,” commented Czechia’s Karolina Hlavata after the game.

“I don’t know what happened, we started to struggle a bit, but we processed together and eventually we won again by one goal. Yes, a bit of luck, but I think we deserved it more.

“I guess not a lot of people expected us to win a single game here, so the fact we’ve won two games, that’s just very emotional, and it’s been 27 years since our country played in this tournament, so we’re all very emotional about that too.”  

Saturday’s final morning game saw Serbia brush past Romania 4-15.

Serbia hit the ground running in the first quarter, quickly going 4-0 up before Romania finally found the net when Anastasiia Melnychuk scored from 6m right on the buzzer.

The tone was already set and Serbia again dominated the second period, winning it 4-1 to take an unassailable 8-2 lead at the long break.

Romania kept battling in the second half, but their hopes of making the crossovers were already over and now they’ll contest the 13th-16th classification games alongside Türkiye.

In Group D, Germany still have their sights firmly set on finishing in first place despite being made to work hard for their 10-12 win against Slovakia.

Midway through the second quarter, they trailed 6-3, then 8-6 early in the third, but four unanswered goals helped put them ahead for the first time in the game at 8-10 with eight minutes remaining.

Slovakia put up a good fight in the final period, with Monica Sedlakova and Karin Kackova hitting back to level at 10-10 with three and a half minutes remaining.

Calm heads were needed, and captain Gesa Deike stood up when needed to edge Germany back in front, then Sinia Plotz sealed the points with her hat-trick goal in the final 60 seconds.

Credit: European Aquatics

Earlier in Group D, Great Britain made it two wins from two with a comfortable 6-19 victory against Bulgaria in the opening game on Saturday.

After racing into a 1-8 halftime lead against Slovakia on day one, Great Britain again enjoyed a fast start, hitting 11 goals this time and conceding just two.

Despite losing some momentum in the third and fourth quarters, Great Britain remained on top and were able to rotate their squad throughout, even resting number one goalkeeper Sophie Jackson for the duration.

The pick of the British attackers were Sant Feliu’s Toula Falvey, who top scored with five goals, while Katy Cutler completed a 100% shooting record after firing in four from four.

Credit: European Aquatics

On Sunday afternoon, as expected, first and second place in Group D will be decided when Great Britain and Germany go head-to-head in a winner-takes-all clash. 

“The game tomorrow against Germany will be a really tough game,” said Great Britain head coach Nick Buller after the win against Bulgaria.

“We’ve had some really close games against them, they beat us in the World Cup, but we\’ve had a good run against them recently, having beaten them in the European qualifiers and in Szentes at the Danube Cup in December. 

“So, we’re not taking anything for granted and we’re really looking forward to it.

“I am very pleased how the team is coming together. In the preparation for this tournament, we have been trying to emphasise being calm in our decision making and it was great to have seen that in the pool in our first two matches.”   

Credit: European Aquatics