Greece’s men’s and women’s national water polo teams are ready to compete at the European Championships in Budapest, which will begin on Sunday.
These European Championships have extra importance for the Greek teams, as they’ll each have the chance to qualify for the Olympics with strong showings in Hungary. In each event, the top team not already qualified for Tokyo 2020, will qualify. On the men’s side, Italy, Serbia, and Spain have already qualified, while Spain are the only European team already qualified for next year’s Olympics on the women’s side.
Both Greek national teams will also have a chance to qualify for the Olympics in March via the World Qualification Tournaments, should they not earn Olympic qualification in Budapest.
Greece’s women’s team will get things started on Sunday, as they will take on Serbia. They will then face Croatia on Monday, Slovakia on January 15, hosts Hungary on January 17, and Russia on January 19. The top four teams in the group will then advance to the quarterfinals. It will likely be a battle between Greece, Hungary, and Russia for the top spot in the group.
In goal for Greece will be Chrysoula Diamantopoulou, who returns to the national team after missing last year’s World Championships due to injury, while Ioanna Stamatopoulou will be the reserve goalkeeper. Also on the roster are Alkisti Avramidou, Alkistis Benekou, Vasiliki Diamantopoulou, Nikoleta Eleftheriadou, Christina Kotsia, Maria Myriokefalitaki, Eirini Ninou, Eleftheria Plevritou, Margarita Plevritou, Christina Tsoukala, and Eleni Xenaki. They are coached by Georgios Morfesis. This will be Greece’s first major tournament since captain Alexandra Asimaki’s recent retirement from the national team.
Myriokefalitaki and Ninou are the only two teenagers on this roster, aged 19 and 17 respectively, and the former will be making her debut in a major tournament with the senior national team. Seven of the 13 players on Greece’s roster are aged 22 or younger, so this is a young group of girls that will be together for many years to come. The future looks bright, as several of these girls were on the Greek team that won silver at the 2017 World U20 Championships, and won bronze at the 2015 European U17 Championships, the 2016 European U19 Championships, and the 2018 World U18 Championships.
The Greek women’s team has never won the European Championships, but they have been runners-up on three occasions (2010, 2012, and 2018). Hosts Hungary have won three times (1991, 2001, and 2016), but finished fourth in 2018. The Russians have also won three times (2006, 2008, and 2010), and were fifth in 2018. The other three teams in Group A have never come close to winning. Croatia’s best result was finishing in eighth (out of eight teams) in 2010 as hosts, and they finished 11th at the last European Championships in 2018. Serbia’s best finish was also eighth (out of eight teams) as hosts in 2006, and they were ninth in 2018. Lastly, Slovakia will be making their second appearance at the European Championships, having finished in 12th place back in 1993.
Greece’s men’s team will play their opening match on January 14 against Italy. They are in Group D, and will also play against Georgia (January 16) and France (January 18). The first placed team in the group will get a bye to the quarterfinals, and the second and third placed teams will advance to the play-off round. Greece and Italy are expected to be the two teams to contend for the top spot in the group.
Greece’s goalkeepers will be Konstantinos Galanidis and Emmanouil Zerdevas. Rounding out the roster will be Stylianos Argyropoulos, Georgios Dervisis, Ioannis Fountoulis, Konstantinos Genidounias, Alexandros Gounas, Marios Kapotsis, Christodoulos Kolomvos, Konstantinos Mourikis, Alexandros Papanastasiou, Dimitrios Skoumpakis, and Angelos Vlachopoulos. The team is coached by Thodoris Vlachos, and he selected the exact same 13 players as he did for last year’s World Championships, where Greece placed seventh overall.
Like the women’s team, the men’s team also features several players who have recently won various medals (including gold) with the junior and youth national teams. Papanastasiou is the only player on this roster who was a part of Greece’s team that won gold last month at the World U20 Championships. Other players, including Skoumpakis and Zerdevas (as well as Papanastasiou) played roles on Greece’s teams that won gold at the 2017 World U20 Championships, gold at the 2018 European U19 Championships, and won bronze at the 2015 European U17 Championships.
It should be noted that Greece finished fifth at the last edition of this event in 2018, and Greece’s best result was finishing in fourth place on two occasions (1999 and 2016). France’s best result was a silver medal back in 1927, but they have not placed in the top 8 since 1958. Georgia will be making their European Championships debut, while Italy were crowned European champions on three occasions (most recently in 1995), and finished fourth at the 2018 event.
by Andrew Stamas
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