The Spanish national water polo team is European champions | Kinds of sports

The Spanish water polo team had a thorn in its side that needed to be removed: achieving its first European Championship in 36 since 1926. team led by David Martin. A desire that today is satisfied and thanks to which the Olympic place at the Paris Games 2024 is won (10-11) after defeating Croatia – hosts and champions of the last edition – in the Bazeni Mladost swimming pool in Zagreb. A historic milestone after a tight and tense final that ended after two powerful goals from Alvaro Granados in the last minute and a half.

Spain were hoping to redeem themselves after losing on penalties 14-12 in the opening round of the championship against Croatia, their only defeat in this year’s competition. It was not an easy mission. To win, they had to go through hell and water, where emotional drive – with the overwhelming impassivity of goalkeeper Unai Aguirre – defense and counter-attacks were more than fundamental for the team led by David Martin. After defeating Italy in the semi-finals, an old friend was waiting for them, whom they had already defeated in the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup, where Spain won gold: Croatia, present on three steps of the World Cup podium since 2007 and two-time European champions. like a master.

The atmosphere was heating up in the Zagreb swimming pools. Both Spain and Croatia repeated the 13 players who reached the final. First sprint It fell on the Croatian side and they converted the penalty, which went over the wall of Unai Aguirre. The frantic pace was evident game after game, with both teams even on the scoreboard and away, until counter-attacks from the team led by Ivica Tucak destroyed the Spanish defense and left the Spanish team with a dismal first quarter (5-3).

David Martin’s anger had an effect: although it seemed impossible to stop Luka Bukic’s hellish strikes, Spain ended Croatia’s four-goal streak and returned to the game. “This is it,” shouted the Spanish goalkeeper between stops and blocks that did not erase the points difference that put them below the scoreboard at the end of the second quarter (7-6), despite Alberto Munarriz’s deftness against the goal. . The Spanish coach asked for more calm and less rain, and the storm began to subside.

The 7-7 score in the third quarter was oxygen and hope. The face of the Croats has changed. And Tukak, red from the heat of the pool, became angry. The defense then became stronger than the hosts, and even the experience of Felipe Perrones could not withstand it. Alvaro Granados connected diagonally with Roger Tahul in an attempt to extend the tie, but Loren Fatovic’s extraordinary shot restored the difference to two points (10-8).

Only one room left sprintthat Croatia won again. Fatigue weighed on both teams, and the hosts abandoned the attack, a mistake that would be confirmed later. Bernat Sanahuja’s shot went past Bihak, a man who could not make matters worse for Spain, who equalized with a minute and a half left (10-10). And between the nerves and the countdown of seconds, Alvaro Granados screamed with a backhand that brought his first historic victory at the European Championships.

Spain is used to winning. And they will hope to repeat this feat and milestone. The next event will take place at the World Championships in Doha (Qatar) in February, where four Olympic places will be awarded and where the Spanish team, already established in Paris this summer, will try to win gold. This medal joins three Avocados (1991, 2018, 2020), four European bronzes, an Olympic gold (Atlanta 96) and three World Championships (1998, 2001, 2022).

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