Meet the groups – Group D (division 2)

SLOVAKIA

Slovakia first appeared at European Championships much earlier than many later great nations in this sport. Almost a whole century ago or exactly 97 years ago! It was at the 2nd European Championship, played in Bologna 1927. under the name of the country at that time, which was called Czechoslovakia.

After 1992. when Slovakia became independent country, Slovakian team continued to participate in major water polo competitions. True, they have not won a single medal, but some of their results have been remembered.

In 2003. at the EC in Kranj, Slovakia took 7th place, which is their best ranking to date. Two years earlier, they were on the verge of a sensation. In the quarter-finals of the European Championship in Budapest in 2001., they lost narrowly to FR Yugoslavia (8:7), which later won the gold. Lately, they have been recording weaker results or placements in European Championships. At the previous EC in Split 2022., they beat Slovenia for 15th place.

Slovakia once performed at the Olympic Games. It was in Sydney 2000. They participated three times in the world championships – in Perth 1998. (10th place), in Fukuoka 2001. (11th place) and in Barcelona 2003. (8th place).

NETHERLANDS

Country of world champions! But… in the women’s competition. However, the Netherlands is a country with a great, long and successful water polo tradition, although it has been far from the podium in recent decades. Unlike the women’s national team, which is the world’s top. After all, the Netherlands is the co-host of this European Championships with Croatia, with the women’s water polo tournament taking place in that country, city of Eindhoven to be precise.

In the beginnings of water polo, the Netherlands was a very frequent participant in major competitions, but also an extremely successful national team. They were European Champion once (Vienna, 1950.), and one name is woven into the history of European Championships. Ruddy van Fegellen, water polo’s van Basten, set a record of 35 goals in the tournament in Vienna 1950. To this day, it remains the second best performance among scorers in one tournament, surpassed only by the legendary Manel Estiarte (Spain), who scored more goals in Athens 1991. – 36! At European Championships, the Dutch also have one bronze. It was back in 1938., in London. The Netherlands missed only three European Championships after the World War II – in Malaga 2008., Zagreb 2010. and Budapest 2014. The Netherlands can boast of a rare feat. It is one of only four countries that has won gold, at least once, at the European Championships in men’s and women’s competition. The other three countries are – Hungary, Italy and the USSR/Russia.

They were almost regular participants in the Olympic Games from 1908. to 2000., and they achieved their greatest success at the 1948. Games in London and in Montreal 1976., when they won a bronze medal with the Croatian coach, the late Ivo Trumbić, a member of the International Hall of Fame of Aquatic Sports in Fort Laudeadle (USA).

SLOVENIA

The Slovenian national team’s appearance at the European Championships in Dubrovnik and Zagreb in 2024. will be their fifth appearance so far in total. With the previous four, they cannot boast of particularly notable results. They were placed on last position, three times. At the tournaments in Kranj 2003. when they were the hosts, in Belgrade 2006. and in Split 2022. By the way, they qualified for Split 2022. based on an invitation, instead of Russia, which is under sanctions due to its aggression against Ukraine.

At their first appearance at the European Championship, in Florence 1999., they were 11th, after defeating only Netherland 8:7. This match is one of their only two victories at European Championships so far. The second was in Kranj 2003., at the competition where they were the hosts, when they won Germany 12:9 at preliminary od group phase.

For the 2024. European Championship in Dubrovnik and Zagreb, Slovenia qualified through the qualifications. They hosted one of the four qualifying tournaments. In June 2023., they won second place in Kranj, behind Romania, and ahead of Switzerland and Finland. They convincingly defeated Finland 25:4, then Switzerland 11:9, and finally draw with Romania, 10:10.

The Slovenian national team arrives at this championship with a new coach. From November 2023., the coach of Slovenia became a Croat from Montenegro, Mirko Vičević. In fact, he is the most famous name in the Slovenian national team because he is a man who as a player was the Olympic gold medalist in Seoul 1988.; twice World Champion from Madrid 1986. and Perth 1991, and European Champion in Athens 1991. All in the then Yugoslavian national team. In Croatia, he played for club, Jadran Split (1989. – 1991.). Since 2020., he has been a member of the International Hall of Fame of Aquatic Sport in Fort Lauderdale (USA).

Slovenia gave to water polo, one of the best referees, Boris Margeta. Maybe it’s time for Slovenia to start leaving a deeper water mark in the pool, and so, Slovenian new, second consecutive appearance in the competition of the best European teams, seems like a great start.

ROMANIA

Romania first appeared on the big european stage in this sport at the European Championship in Leipzig, 1962. They immediately finished quite high, winning 5th place. That was their best result until the European Championship in Sheffield in 1993.

Then they achieved a great result, surprising Croatia in the quarter-finals, and advanced to the semi-finals, and eventually finished in 4th place. They repeated that success once more, in Belgrade 2006., when they defeated Italy in the quarter-finals. Their other placements at the championships of our continent were mostly from 9th to 11th place.

Romania is actually still waiting for its first medal at a major competition. At the Olympic Games, they were once 4th (Montreal 1976.), and once 5th (Tokyo 1964.). The last time they performed at the Olympic Games was 12 years ago, when they took 10th place in London 2012. The situation is similar with the World Championships where they last appeared in Barcelona 2013. (13th place), and their best ranking was 5th place in 1975., in the Colombian city of Cali.

Like Slovakia, Romania also had several excellent, out-of-series players. Some were so good that other nations managed to entice them to play for them, like Bogdan Rath for Italy. Probably the best Romanian water polo player in history was Cosmin Radu. He played for a long time in Italy (Florentia) and he was the best scorer in Serie A; as well as in Croatia, in Mladost Zagreb and Primorje Rijeka. Two years ago, in 2021., he ended his playing career in Mladost Zagreb after scoring a last goal in the decisive final match for the Croatian Championship title. In 2011., he was the best scorer of the World Championship in Shanghai.