|WORLD LEAGUE, BUD - ASSESSMENT|
After the first group matches are over, I thought I give a bit of overview on how I saw the competing teams in "Europe 2" group. As all could see the results of "Europe 1", I don't know what those matches were really like... but probably tougher than the Budapest group, as all teams are compiting in "Europe 1" to make it to 2008 Olympics.
Let's move from the bottom to the top:
5. RUSSIA - Once their were one of the best... somewhere in ancient waterpolo history. Ever since 2000, Sydney they simple cannot play it right. Watching their game, I couldn't believe it that they made it to 3rd place in Athenes, 2004. They have a new coach now, and you can see that they're really trying hard, but I have emphasize the word... trying. They received almost twice as much goal, than what they scored. They are very unsure from the far, cannot really handle tough blocking positions, nothing mentionable in center work. Stratan is still there, one of the most routine ones, but he simply cannot drag the team with him to win something. It's difficult to find any other talented players... Finajev, Jestignejev, Agarkov are not bad players, but they're still not enough to kick the whole team over the goal-silenced periods. The thing that they weren't beaten with so many goals by Spain and Croatia, is not about the quality polo of Russia, but rather about the negligent play of Croatia and Spain in World League tournament.
4. ROMANIA - Well, they have improved a lot... much better than they were in WC in Melbourne. Pretty nice shots, they're dangerous from the very left and right wing, and thank god they're not playing all their figures on the center to finish. I would say, they're much more dangerous to top teams now, then they were before. As they have few top scorers, they still cannot do anything with Team Hungary, but if they have a neglecting opponent (e.g. Spain) they have the chance to beat them... now they should get some confidence and keep up this faith, so they can do it. One more interesting fact: 4 Romanian players were on Top Scorer list - Cosmin Radu (10 goals), Andrei Iosep (8 goals), Andrei Budila (7 goals), Eduard Andrei-Dina (6 goals). So, Romania is on its way to be dangerous in Beijing next year.
3. SPAIN - one of the teams who really doesn't have to do any devastating fight to make to the 2008 Olympics. Although this shouldn't have to mean they can neglect tournaments until that... but they did. They were here with the full team from the WC. When a game was getting tough, they started to play, so they won't be beaten by so many goals... that was the dignity. Rafael Aguilar quoted that they focus on Olympics only, nothing else matters. I still think it's a shame, that they played like that. Spectaculars thought that they will be the same as they were in Melbourne, and make other top teams life a lot more harder in the pool, but they didn't. We didn't see any brilliant Perez, he was rather sitting on the bench or among the crowd. They top scorers (e.g. Molina, Perrone) not really showed us what they can play. The 2nd group games will be held in Spain, and everybody is sure that they will really play, but I can tell... their aim is not to be in Berlin for the SF8. But never mind... with this at least you will have the chance to see quality waterpolo there.
2. CROATIA - Only 5 WC players, 8 is either resting or injured. As Rudic said "it's a very young team"... so what??... They're professional sports men, I don't care if they're young, that's never an explanation for poor achievement. Croatia is on the throne now, and can watch as other nations strive for Olympic qualifications. So, they decided not to put too much into the World League series... it's a shame. But with only 5 WC players, at least you could clearly saw the weakness of their game. Okay, they have terrific centers (Buslje, Dobud), but they should start working on it not to play all figures for the centers. Because they're the easiest to eliminate. They have few top scoreres and they can hardly score from the far. They play the classic tough Slavic defense, because they cannot be that effective we other teams playing fast and moving around attacks. Croatia is not so keen to make it to the SF8, but I'm sure they will. I'm waiting to see where are they heading in improvement.
1. HUNGARY - Almost the same team as in Melbourne, but a different play. Okay, it was very jolted at the beginning... attacks were brilliant, but big gaps in defense, they started tough, but got loosend from the 3rd quarters. But you could clearly see as they got better and better game after game. Most of the players, who showed a very poor game in the National League or in Melbourne, were like totally re-born. You could see some nice figures and ball movements... and it was good to see how is it look like when they're really motivated, focused and really acting as a team. Denes Kemeny highlighted many times, that next year's Olympic is the main aim. So all the preparation and games Hungary will play in the future, is all about that. But as Hungary is a waterpolo nation, they cannot play an international tournament with half-heart although they have they ticket to Beijing. And one more thing: HUN-CRO game - 1) it wasn't about fighting back for lost final in Melbourne (it wasn't the same Croatian team at all), 2) 9 goal in difference (15-6) is not realistic. There's less difference between the two teams (1-max. 2 goals, if any of them has a really bad day then max. 4). It was Hungary is 1st team games, and they really wanted to play well and show it to everybody... and they did... as the fans chanted: That's our Team!
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