World champions Netherlands down Hungary to march into quarterfinals

Credit: European Aquatics

Netherlands, Greece, Italy and Spain all booked quarterfinal spots after a second day of spectacular action in Eindhoven, as Hungary suffered a second successive defeat that condemned them to Monday’s crossover round.

Group A: Greece 25-8 Croatia, Netherlands 14-11 Hungary
Group B: Italy 12-6 France, Spain 22-7 Israel 

The stands were rocking and the noise deafening as the world champions Netherlands put on another spectacular display in Eindhoven, this time against medal rivals Hungary.

This clash had top billing and it was only right that two of the world’s top players opened the scoring – Sabrina Van der Sloot for the Netherlands, then Rita Keszthelyi for Hungary – in front of a 2,500 capacity crowd.

Sisters Lieke and Bente Rogge then fired in for 3-1, which set the Pieter van den Hoogenband Swimming Stadium alight as Hungary struggled to cope with the Netherlands’ early attacking waves.

There was more pain to come for the Magyars, as Marit Van Der Weijden rifled in another to make it 4-1 just before the end of the first.

Hungary, still hurting from their day one loss to Greece, knew they had to respond, and that’s exactly what they did in the second.

After Iris Wolves powered in a shot from 2m to extend the lead to 5-1, Rebecca Parkes, Greta Gurisatti and Krisztina Garda all hit back to make it 5-4 at the turnaround.

Lieke Rogge added three more to her tally in the third, and was maybe the coolest person in the entire venue when she delicately lobbed Alda Magyari for 9-6.

Credit: European Aquatics

The gap was down to two (10-8) going into a tense final eight minutes, and the tension in the crowd was eased when a VAR call went the Netherlands’ way, as Maartje Keuning’s shot was ruled to have crossed the line to put the Dutch 12-9 ahead.

Hungary were chasing the game throughout and when Wolves and Van der Sloot made it 14-10 late on, the contest was over.

“I think we played a really good game against Hungary tonight,” Van der Sloot commented after the game.

“I think we were a little nervous because we played in front of such a big home crowd, but it was good to see that we grew as the game progressed.

“We started to play better, but we still made a few mistakes. We always had the advantage but we almost let it slip, so we have a lot of work to do.

“But in the end, I think we can be proud of our performance tonight and we move onto the next game.”

It was one thing beating Croatia 24-6 on the opening day, but to beat Hungary in such a fashion sends out a clear message of intent – the Dutch want to reclaim the crown they last won in 2018.

As for Hungary, conceding 14 goals for the second game running indicates a few defensive problems, which need fixing, and quickly.

Credit: European Aquatics

Earlier in Group A, Greece didn’t need long to shake off Croatia in the first game of Saturday’s afternoon session.

It was only the first quarter that Croatia slightly troubled the 2022 European silver medallists, as twice they levelled, at 2-2 and 4-4, before Greece started to show their true class and pull away.

Greece stamped their authority on the game firmly in the second period, as they hammered in seven to Croatia’s one to open up a substantial 12-5 advantage.

From then, it was all one-way traffic, as Greece won the second half at a canter (13-3), with Eleftheria Plevritou one of the many stand-out performers, firing in four from five shots.

Eleni Elliniadi and Eleni Xenaki were also prolific in front of goal, with both scoring five from seven attempts.

A side story to this game was obviously the battle of the six sisters – the three Plevritou siblings for Greece and the three Butic sisters for Croatia.

For the record, Greece also dominated this contest, with the Plevritous beating the Butics 7-1.

In Group B, Italy followed up their 11-20 victory against Israel on day one with another commanding win – this time 12-6 against France, which was enough to secure their place in the quarterfinal round.

Italy were on top from the start, with Roberta Bianconi scoring twice inside the opening five minutes to help give the Italians a 4-0 lead at the end of the first.

Ema Vernoux and Juliette Dhalluin did cut the deficit to two, and France even won the second quarter 2-3, but they could never get any closer to the 2022 bronze medallists.

In the third, Italy stepped up a gear, extending the lead to 10-4 to ensure there was no way back for France.

Credit: European Aquatics

Also in Group B, in the day’s final encounter, title holders Spain made no mistakes against Israel, winning comfortably 22-7.

Racing into a 5-2 lead by the end of the first, Spain were cutting through the Israel defence with relative ease.

By the turnaround, Spain were 10-5 ahead, with Bea Ortiz and Judith Forca both in formidable form, as they each bagged first-half hat-tricks.

The second half continued along a familiar path, with Spain winning the third 8-2 and the fourth 4-0.

Now, the attention turns to tomorrow night’s highly-anticipated showdowns for the top spots in Group A and B, as the Netherlands face Greece and Italy take on Spain.