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Established powers triumph in test of youth

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The best Water Polo images of Baku 2015

Water Polo | Best of Baku 2015
A general view as Great Britain competes against Greece. Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 12: Goalkeeper Sarah Buis #13 of the Netherlands competes in a Water Polo preliminary match against Israel during day zero of the Baku 2015 European Games at Water Polo Arena on June 12, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BECOG)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Sophia Eggert of Germany in action during the Women's Water Polo Group Round Group A Match between Germany and Israel during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Water Polo Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Nikolaos Kalargyros of Greece in action during the Men's Water Polo Group Round Group C Match between Turkey and Greece during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Water Polo Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Meike Weber of Germany in action during the Women's Water Polo Group Round Group A Match between Germany and Israel during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Water Polo Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Alexandros Papanastasiou of Greece in action during the Men's Water Polo Group Round Group C Match between Turkey and Greece during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Water Polo Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Mykola Leshchenko of Ukraine battles for the ball with Andrea De Nardi of France during the Men's Water Polo Group Round Group A Match between Ukraine and France during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Water Polo Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Stanislav Dubelir of Ukraine in action during the Men's Water Polo Group Round Group A Match between Ukraine and France during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Water Polo Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Aleksa Ukropina (white) of Montenegro takes a shot past Pierre Chandieu (blue) of France during the Men's Waterpolo Classification match between Montenegro and France during day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Spectators show their support for team France during the Women's Water Polo classification match between Serbia and France during day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: Mark Banyai the goalkeeper of Hungary fails to stop a penalty during the penalty shoot out during the Men's Water Polo Quarter Final match between Greece and Hungary during day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Alvaro Granados Ortega of Spain celebrates as he scores their ninth goal during the Men's Water Polo semi final between Spain and Croatia during day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Elisavet Protopapas (white) of Greece scores a goal during the Women's Waterpolo bronze medal match between Italy and Greece on day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Slovakia players enter the pool ahead of the Women's Water Polo classification match between Slovakia and Germany during day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 21: Denis Strelezkij of Germany (L) battles for the ball with Balazs Kosa of Hungary (R) in the Men's Classification 7th-8th Place Match during day nine of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 21, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 18: Spain players celebrate victory after the Women's Water Polo semi final between Spain and Greece on day six of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 18, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Gold medalists Russia celebrate with the medals won during the Women's Water Polo gold medal match between Russia and Spain on day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 21: Serbia players and staff jump into the pool in celebration after winning the gold during the Men's Water Polo gold medal match between Spain and Serbia on day nine of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Water Polo Arena on June 21, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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A review of Water Polo at the Baku 2015 European Games

Although the unpredictability of youth was expected to cause some surprises in the Baku 2015 Water Polo competition – which doubled up as the European Under-17 Championships – it was two of the sport’s traditional powerhouses that finished on top of the podium when calm returned to the pool.

Serbia’s determined and confident young men’s team eventually triumphed after a hard-fought final against Spain, avenging a 9-8 group stage defeat. “In every second of the tournament we believed in first place,” said Jasmin Kolasinac. “We believed.”

This self-belief had shone through moments before the shoot-out victory over Greece in the semi-finals. “I asked the players, ‘who can do it?’ and I am very pleased that eight players stood up and gave me their hand to show they wanted to shoot,” said coach Zoran Milenkovic. “That showed that we believe in ourselves.”

The other semi-final had looked like going to penalties as well, but with the scores tied at 8-8 and one minute left, Alvaro Granados Ortega rose above the Croatian defence to score. “It was as if I was floating in the clouds,” he said dreamily.

Greece also avenged a group defeat as they beat Croatia to claim the bronze medal. “It’s great,” said Dimitrios Nikolaidis. “We are excited and exhausted. We’ll go back to Greece very happy.”

Hungary, the 2014 world youth champions, were defeated by Greece in the quarter-finals while 2013 European junior champions Montenegro fell in the qualifying round, losing 11-8 to Russia, who went on to lose to Spain in the quarter-finals.

The Russians were however triumphant in the women’s tournament, with Spain and Greece taking silver and bronze, as their male counterparts would do.

The difference between silver and gold was again wafer-thin for the Spaniards, who lost out in a penalty shoot-out in the final. They had led 7-4 but the Russians fought back to tie the match 10-10, thanks largely to three goals from Daria Gerzanich.

In the shoot-out, both teams scored their first six penalties before Russian goalkeeper Evgeniia Golovina saved Paula Crespi Barriga’s second effort to ensure Gerzanich’s strike was decisive.

Russia coach Andrei Belofastov admitted that shoot-outs are always decided by an element of luck, saying, “penalties are Russian roulette.”

Russia had looked good for gold throughout the tournament, topping their group – in which they beat eventual finalists Spain 12-8 – and cruising through their semi-final with Italy with a 17-7 win.

Winning their group meant the Russians benefited from playing one less game and gaining an extra day’s rest, as they went directly into the semi-finals. The Spaniards, meanwhile, had to battle past Hungary (8-5) in the quarter-finals before a hard-fought 9-6 semi-final win over 2013 European champions Greece.

Greece were indebted to their goalkeeper Ioanna Stamatopoulou, who pulled out a series of fine saves to keep Italy at bay in the bronze medal match, which the Greeks won 8-7.


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    Established powers triumph in test of youth

    A review of Water Polo at the Baku 2015 European Games
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    Serbia edge Spain for Water Polo gold

    Late surge settles final, after Greece claim bronze medal
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    Russia win game of roulette to take gold

    Women's Water Polo final goes to penalties after nail-biting climax
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    Spain and Serbia come through semis to set up rematch

    Serbia overcome Greece in sudden-death penalty shoot-out
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    Spain and Russia to fight for women's Water Polo gold

    Spain hold off Greece in tense semi-final as Russia cruise past Italy
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    Good day in Water Polo pool for Russia

    Men's and women's teams advance to semi-finals
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    Giannopoulos urges Greece to rediscover national spirit

    Water Polo star hopes that sporting success can restore national pride
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