Greece won the European prelims by beating Montenegro with ease, thanks some outstanding offensive display which included eight action goals. Before the final, in a tense and hardly fought game Italy managed to beat Spain once more after the 2019 World Championship final – this time ‘only’ for the bronze medal in the prelims but that secured their place in the Super Final. Italy’s Argentine-born leftie Gonzalo Echenique enjoyed an amazing game, his triple and a huge block at the very end sealed his team’s success. Besides all this, the tournament was a fine proof that proper organisation, strict measures and the utmost discipline from the participants could ensure that sport action can and should return to the pools at international level, even amid the current extraordinary circumstances.
The final didn’t offer the thrills of the previous two matches – somewhat understandably since both Greece and Montenegro had already booked its spot in the Super Final by winning the semis on Saturday. The Greek managed to take the upper hand and with a 5-0 rush in the middle of the game they closed down the match before the last period. The bronze medal match was much more tense as only the winner could advance while Hungary and Serbia go neck-to-neck anytime, anywhere so this edition of their grand rivalry produced another epic battle where the Serbs staged the better finish to finish fifth.
Greek triumph – the team enjoyed a great weekend, beat France, Spain and Montenegro - Photos: Istvan Derencsenyi
In the rematch of the 2019 World Championship final Italy upended Spain once more, though this time it wasn’t a lop-sided contest as in Gwangju. It offered numerous twists and turns, Spain came from behind to go 4-2 after 0-2 and shut out the Italians for 16 minutes. But the world champs bounced back in the third and after exchanging a series of goals, they netted two after 7-7 and that proved to be decisive, even though Spain pulled one back and had a possession to go even. This win sent Italy to the Super Final since the top three were to go through here.
It was a grand battle between Italy and Spain – as usual, this time the world champs prevailed
In the other matches Hungary and Serbia produced a great game where the goalkeepers were truly outstanding – Viktor Nagy kept his team in the match in the first half, at the other end Branislav Mitrovic stopped two penalties, then Gojko Pijetlovic came up with crucial catches when the Magyars had the chance to multiple their lead. Then Filip Filipovic proved his class for the hundredth time perhaps: after five unsuccessful attempts he scored two crucial goals to help the Olympic champion side winning the game after being 6-7 down as they staged a 3-0 rush in 97 seconds at the end.
The Hungarian defence worked hard but the Serbs handled the finish better
In the game for the 7th place Croatia rolled over the French with ease: after two disappointing losses the 2017 world champions finally showed some quality, though they may need more boost for their team morale before the crucial Olympic Qualification Tournament in February.
It was Croatia all the way in the opening game of the last day
Final standings – Men's WL European prelims
1. Greece, 2. Montenegro, 3. Italy, 4. Spain, 5. Serbia, 6. Hungary, 7. Croatia, 8. France.
The top three advanced to the Super Final.
Gold: Team Greece
Silver: Team Montenegro
Bronze: Team Italy