Spain targeting third consecutive European gold

Credit: European Aquatics

In recent years, Spain have built a winning mentality and a rich tradition of success. Since 2012, they have finished on the podium at four European Water Polo Championships, including winning gold at the previous two editions.

At the 2024 tournament in Eindhoven, Spain will have the chance to become the fourth women’s team – after the Netherlands, Italy and Russia – to win three consecutive European crowns.

If head coach Miki Oca can guide his squad to a fourth European title in a decade, they will move to third in the overall medal table behind the Netherlands and Italy, who have both triumphed five times each.

Current form proves Spain will be one of the teams to beat when play starts at the magnificent Pieter van den Hoogenband Swimming Stadium in Eindhoven on 5th January.

As well as winning the 2020 and 2022 European Championships, Oca steered his squad to the finals of the 2020 Olympic Games (in 2021) and the 2023 World Championships.

In Fukuoka, they faced the Netherlands in an action-packed gold-medal game and fought back from 9-7 down in the final quarter to force a dramatic shootout.

Spain’s Bea Ortiz was unfortunate to see her penalty shot crash against the post, which handed the initiative to the Netherlands, who went on to claim the victory.

Oca’s team will be fighting for three major titles in 2024 – the European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games – and he recently named a strong squad for Eindhoven as they look to defend the trophy they won in Budapest and Split.

Credit: European Aquatics

Fourteen of the 15 players announced were present in Fukuoka, with the only addition being CN Terrassa’s Isabel Piralkova, who scored seven goals and finished fifth with Spain at the 2022 World Women’s Youth Championships in Belgrade.

Eighteen-year-old Piralkova already knows her national team-mates well, but especially Paula Camus and Pili Pena, who she plays alongside for Terrassa.

Champions League winners Sabadell provide five players for the Spanish team, with Maica Garcia, Laura Ester, Judith Forca, Paula Leiton and Bea Ortiz all called up once again.

The others are Anni Espar and Cristina Nogue from Mataro, and Sant Andreu’s Elena Ruiz, Ariadna Ruiz, Nona Perez, Martina Terre and Paula Crespi.

With two of the best goalkeepers in the world – Ester and Terre – and a well-organised defensive unit, Spain also boast one of the best young players on the planet – nineteen-year-old Elena Ruiz, who was voted MVP at the 2023 World Championships.

“We are going to try as hard as we can and give everything to have a good result [in Eindhoven],” Ruiz told the Royal Spanish Swimming Federation.

“Having the Olympic place will not take away any motivation or tension. We always go for gold.”

Credit: European Aquatics

Spain, who have been drawn in Division 1’s Group B in Eindhoven alongside France, Israel and Italy, also have the top scorer at the previous two World Championships – Judith Forca – among their fearsome attacking options.

As part of the team’s preparations for their pursuit of gold at the European Championships, Spain faced Hungary recently in Barcelona and edged the Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists 7-5 in a hard-fought victory.

When it comes to winning medals, head coach Oca also famously knows how it feels to stand on the podium as a player.

Lining up alongside the great Manuel Estiarte, Oca won silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and gold at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

As head coach, he’s guided Spain to numerous podiums, including two silver medals at the 2012 and 2020 Olympic Games, and one gold and three silvers at the World Championships. 

Every game from Eindhoven will be streamed live via the Eurovision Sport website and app, and a full schedule of the tournament can be found by clicking here.

Tickets can also be purchased by clicking here.