We present the participants of the 2022 European Championships in Split
Group D – Hungary, Serbia, Israel, Slovenia
Best. In Europe, they are unrivalled in a very tough competition, and this is best confirmed by the numbers. Hungary is the most successful water polo nation in the history of the European Championships. They have won 13 gold medals, 6 silver, and 6 bronze. In other words, out of the 34 European Championships that have taken place so far, they have won 25 medals! More than almost anyone else on our continent.
Their capital, Budapest, has even hosted the European Championships 5 times. From the first event in 1926 to the last one in 2020, water polo is the national sport in this country and the players and coaches are extremely popular and famous. The European Championships are almost “Hungarian playgrounds”.
In 1926, 1927, 1931, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1974, 1977, 1997, 1999, and 2020 they won gold in Europe. Apart from Hungary, there was no other national team that won the title of European champion five times in a row (1926-1938). Of the first 10 championships, Hungary even won gold 8 times! However, it should also be mentioned that a whole 21 years have passed between the last two gold medals, from Florence 1999 to Budapest 2020.
Of course, Budapest also has a rich treasure trove of European medals of other colours – 6 silver (1970, 1983, 1993, 1995, 2006, and 2014) and 6 bronze (1981, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2012, and 2016). Only in one European Championship, in Vienna in 1950, Hungary did not participate (political reasons).
It is clear that Hungary is the country whose national team has played the most matches in the history of the European Championships, 220!
Also in the history of Olympic tournaments, there is no more successful nation than the Hungarians with 9 gold medals (Los Angeles 1932, Berlin 1936, Helsinki 1952, Melbourne 1956, Tokyo 1964, Montreal 1976, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, and Beijing 2008). Particularly impressive are the three consecutive Olympic gold medals (2000 – 2008). There are also 3 Olympic silver medals (Amsterdam 1928, London 1948, and Munich 1972) and 4 bronze medals (Rome 1960, Ciudad de Mexico 1968, Moscow 1980, and Tokyo 2021).
At the World Championships, Hungary has 3 world titles (Belgrade 1973, Barcelona 2003, and Barcelona 2013) and 7 more silver and one bronze medals. Hungary won the FINA Cup four times (Rijeka and Belgrade 1979, Atlanta 1995, Sydney 1999, and Berlin 2018) and the World League twice (New York 2003 and Long Beach 2004).
Hungary comes to Split as defending European Champions and will have a strong say in the fight for a place on the podium.
The ratio at the European Championships
Another superpower, although it has only existed as an independent state under its current name since 2006. In terms of water polo, however, Serbian water polo has an immeasurably longer and, above all, successful history. Just as in the case of Croatia and Montenegro, Serbian water polo players contributed to the great victories and trophies of the team under the name SFR Yugoslavia, until 1991 and the dissolution of that country. Three Olympic gold medals (Ciudad de Mexico 1968, Los Angles 1984, and Seoul 1988) and two world titles (Madrid 1986 and Perth 1991) deserve special mention. The gold from WC in Australia was the last medal won by Serbian, Croatian and Montenegrin water polo players together under the name of Yugoslavia. The title of European champion in Athens in 1991 was already won without Croatian players.
However, the end of the former Yugoslavia did not mean the end of water polo success in these territories and thus not in Serbia. In the 21st century, Serbia won no less than 26 gold medals! Serbia (then still under the name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) took part in the European Championships for the first time in 1997 in Seville. At these competitions, they won no less than 7 championship titles (Budapest 2001, Kranj 2003, Belgrade 2006, Eindhoven 2012, and Budapest 2014). , Belgrade 2016 and Barcelona 2018). Serbia won European Championship silver twice (Seville 1997 and Malaga 2008), while they won bronze once (Zagreb 2010). Since 1997, Serbia has won a medal at the European Championships only twice – in Florence in 1999 and in Budapest in 2020.
Extremely impressive is Serbia’s series in the World League, where this team is by far the most successful. In the World League (until 20 July 2022), they have won no less than 13 gold medals, including 5 in a row (from 2013 to 2017). They have also won 1 silver and 1 bronze. In the first 19 editions of the World League, Serbian water polo players stood on the podium 15 times!
They were the best at the World Championships 4 times (Montreal 2005, under the name of Serbia and Montenegro, Rome 2009, Barcelona 2013, and Kazan 2015). They won silver 2 times (Fukuoka 2001 under the name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Shanghai 2011) and bronze 3 times (Perth 1998 under the name FR Yugoslavia, Barcelona 2003 as Serbia and Montenegro, and in Budapest 2017).
Their greatest successes were at the Olympic Games, where they won 2 gold (Rio de Janeiro 2016 and Tokyo 2020), silver (Athens 2004), and 2 bronze medals (Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008).
They come to Split as Olympic champions, with a much younger team than at the Tokyo Olympics, but still a very strong team and a contender for a medal.
The ratio at the European Championships (from 1997)
Debutants in Split or at the European Championships. The Israeli men’s water polo team has never participated in the competitions of the best national teams on the continent.
The Israeli water polo players won their arrival in Dalmatia at the qualifying tournaments they hosted in Netanya in February this year. They finished second (behind the Netherlands) and ahead of Turkey and Ukraine. They lost to the Dutch (10:4) but won the other two key matches with almost minimal results but maximum celebration – against Ukraine 7:6 and Turkey 9:7.
Although the men’s national team has not yet participated in the European Championships, Israel has already participated in the World Championships three times – in 1973 in Belgrade (16th place), in 1978 in West Berlin (16th place) and in 1986 in Madrid (15th place). In principle, the Israeli water polo players achieved their goal by qualifying for the European Championships. They came to Split to study and gain great experience.
In tennis terms, the Slovenian national team is a “lucky loser”. In fact, Slovenia qualified for Split because of the sanctions against Russia. The Slovenians finished third in the qualification group in Kranj behind the teams from France and Germany, but with the highest number of points, and have thus secured a place at the European Championships in Split.
Slovenia’s participation in the 2022 European Championship in Split will be their fourth overall. The first time they competed was in Florence in 1999, where they finished second to last, beating the Netherlands 8-7 to finish 11th. The second time they took part as hosts was in Kranj in 2003, where they finished 12th, and the third time was in Belgrade in 2006, where they also finished 12th.
So far they have only two victories in the European Championships. Apart from the aforementioned one against the Netherlands in 1999, the second victory was in Kranj in 2003, when they beat Germany 12:9 in the group.
The ratio at the European Championships