Spain claimed an easy victory over Russia and even a shootout win in their last remaining match against the Netherlands would put them atop in the European qualification group, ahead of the host Hungarians.
It took 37 seconds for Russia to jump to a 2-0 lead but that might have been the last positive impression they could take away from this match. Early in the second, after 4-4, the Spanish netted three connecting goals in 1:46 minutes to go 4-7 up and they never looked back.
Russia chased them but only their counters worked somewhat – at least for three periods –, their man-up and 6 on 6 plays did not. Still, early in the fourth they had a glimpse of hope as they came back to 9-11 but it did not last long. Instead, their defence fell apart and Spain staged a 0-6 surge and won by seven at the end, a rather rare scenario in a game at this level.
A reflection on what the world went through: 13 months ago it was a different story, when these two clashed for the European title here in Budapest. It was on the other side of the Danube and the other end of the city, in the Duna Arena, in front of 5,000 fans. It was a thrilling match, Spain won 13-12 – returned to the continental throne after six years –, while this one turned into a lop-sided contest. Though as Spain’s legendary head coach, Miki Oca – Olympic and world champion as a player – said after the game: “Sometimes it happens. But don’t expect anything similar when we meet the Russians next time.”
Russia v Spain 9 -17
Details, stats, play-by-play here.
1. Hungary 16 pts (5 wins, 1 loss), 2. Spain 14 pts (5W, 0L), 3. Greece 9 pts (3W/3L), 4. Italy 7 pts (2W, 4L), 5. Russia 6 pts (2W/3 L), 6. Netherlands 5 pts (2W/2L), 7. France, 0 pts (6L)
Remaining matches: NED v ESP, NED v RUS