Meet the groups – Group A (division 1)

CROATIA

The tradition of water polo, as well as the history of the success of this sport in Croatia, is much longer than the state’s independence. Therefore, it is impossible not to mention the role of Croatian players, coaches and clubs in water polo successes even before the independence of Croatia. In all the trophies and medals of the national team of the former Yugoslavia, players and coaches from Croatia played a truly key role, and to single out from that period (until 1991.) -3 Olympic golds and 4 silvers, as well as 2 world championship titles and 2 bronzes, etc.

Since the independence of Croatia, the water polo national team, nicknamed Barracuda, has become a symbol of the success of Croatian sports, and is the most trophy-winning national team from this country. The greatest success is undoubtedly the Olympic gold won in London 2012., as well as two Olympic silvers (Atlanta 199.6 and Rio de Janeiro 2016).

Barracudas are the owners of two spectacular records from the world championships. From Melbourne 2007. to Gwangju 2019., Croatia won medals at 7 consecutive world championships! That streak was broken in 2022. at World Championships in Hungary, but another streak continued. From 2005. World Championships in Montreal to Budapest 2022., Croatia had as many as 9 consecutive semifinals of world championships!

As far as medals from world competitions are concerned, Croatia was the world champion twice (Melbourne 2007. and Budapest 2017.), they won a silver medal once (Kazan 2015.), while they hung bronze medals around their necks four times (Rome 2009., Shanghai 2011., Barcelona 2013. and Gwangju 2019).

At the European championships, Croatia went the furthest, interestingly, just when it organized the competition! In Zagreb 2010. and in Split 2022., Croatia won the gold medal. Croats played in the final twice more, but won silver (Florence 1999. and Kranj 2003.). The fifth medal from the European Championships is the bronze from Barcelona 2018.

MONTENEGRO

A small country in the south of the Adriatic, independent since 2006, but with a very long and rich history and tradition of water polo that goes back a century. The Montenegrin club with the most trophies is Jadran from Herceg Novi, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. In the era when there was a country called Yugoslavia, Montenegrin water polo players also contributed to the great international successes of that country in water polo.

Since gaining independence, we can rightly call water polo Montenegrin’s national sport. The water polo team of this country is a regular participant in the Olympic Games, and in fact the largest number of Montenegrin Olympians plays water polo. Montenegro recorded an infamous curiosity at the Olympic Games. On three occasions, they were millimeters close to a medal, but they won fourth place all three times – Beijing in 2008., London in 2012. and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Nevertheless, Montenegro’s greatest success in water polo, when it comes to the national team, was achieved precisely at European Championship. It was in 2008. in Malaga, Spain, when Montenegro went all the way as a debutant, winning the gold medal and the title of European champion. It was the historic first European championship title of any sports team from independent Montenegro.

A year later, Water Polo Club Primorac from Kotor won the European Champions League title, defeating 1999. powerhouse Pro Recco in the final of the the Final Four tournament in Rijeka, Croatia.

As for the national team and its performance at the European Championships, after the gold in the south of Andalusia, Montenegro won three more medals. Two silvers in Eindhoven in 2012. and Belgrade in 2016. Both times Serbia was better in the final. At the European Championship in Budapest in 2020., they won bronze by defeating Croatia, while in 2022. they took 7th place in Split.1

Montenegro also has one world runner-up title. In the summer of 2013., they won silver at the World Championship in Barcelona, after Hungary was better in the final.

The nickname of the Montenegrin national team is Ajkule (Sharks).

SPAIN

It is a world superpower in this sport. At the last World Championship in Fukuoka in 2023., they won a bronze medal, as well as at the European Championship in Split in 2022. However, let us remind you that they previously won silver at the World Championship in Gwangju in 2019., and in Budapest 2022. they became world champions for the third time in history.

For decades, the core of the quality of Spanish water polo has been Catalonia and its clubs and players, while today the basis of the strength of the Spanish national team is basically one club – Barceloneta. More than half of the team comes from that club, which gives the national team an additional dimension in terms of teamwork.

Spain’s streak of success is particularly recognizable at the Olympic Games and World Championships. At the Olympic Games, they won the gold medal in Atlanta in 1996., and four years earlier, silver medal, in their pool in Barcelona. They had fickle performances at the world championships. For example, 1998. in Perth and 2001. in Fukuoka, they won the title of world champion twice in a row. Also they won a bronze medal in Melbourne in 2007., and silver two years later in Rome. Somewhat lower rankings followed later, and then a shock in 2015. That year, for the World Championship in the Russian city of Kazan, Spain for the first time in history didn’t even make to qualify. In 2017., they were only 9th in Budapest (the lowest ranking since 1978.), but then there was an upswing that continues to this day.

They play modern, fast and they are certainly one of the favorites for a very high ranking in Croatia in 2024.

FRANCE

France was one of the more respectable and stronger teams in the beginnings of major international water polo competitions. After all, France was olympic gold medalist in Paris 1924. and bronze medalists twice, at the first olympic water polo tournament, also in Paris but 1900. and in Amsterdam, 1928. At the 2. European Championship 1927. in Bologna, France won silver. Only Hungary was stronger then. But after the 1928. Amsterdam Olympics, French team never again climbed one of the podium steps. Not at any major international competition.

During the 1930s, they took 6th place at the European Championships three times in a row, just as they were fourth at the Berlin Olympics, 1936. After World War II, France would only occasionally qualify for major international competitions, but always ranked 10th and below.

However, in recent years a lot has changed significantly for the better in French water polo. There are big investments in clubs, the national championship has grown tremendously, even to the extent that in 2019., for the first time in history, some French club won a European cup competition (Marseille won the Eurocup). Today, the French national team has several great, high-quality players on a world scale. All of this is to a good extent also a consequence of the fact that Paris has won the hosting of the Olympic Games 2024., so France are making a maximum effort to significantly improve every sport in which they may not have been in the elite. With water polo, they undoubtedly succeed. Ultimately, they performed at the World Championship in Fukuoka 2023. and were great at 6th place, and at the previous European Championship in Split 2022., they also won 6th place, which is their best result since the European Championship in Vienna 1950., when won the same place.