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Half way through Expert Fantasy on Andrei Iosep and his team Poker faces leading with 8 points ahead of Uros Stevanovic. Third place holds Balasz Vincze. The most interesting matches are still to come during this week and we will have third winner of after Dragan Jovanovic and Elvis Fatovic.

Andrei Iosep, coach of Steaua, leads with 78,63 points after 4 rounds. It is completely different from last year when he was in bottom half during hole competition? Even the name of the team, Sharks become Poker faces.

Iosep: I acumulate more experience in this kind of game…maybe J.  I had to change something, I cannot continue with a non winning team…or name.

Last year Iosep took Munarriz as 1st pick, this year GK Bijac, then CF Mourikis, deciding to fill positions than in general don’t bring so much points like two LS and two RS players?

Iosep: I just want to be sure that I will have a goalie that can bring me more points, LS and RS players usually will bring points from all the teams. Last year I was so happy to take Vamos at the beginning, but he bearly scored in Barcelona, it was a big disappointment for my game last year J.

In some situation Vjeko Kobescak picked the players that I was thinking to take. It was like he enter in my mind. But I reacted very fast after and took good players who brought me valuable points.

Iosep managed to steal Granados in 5th round, and he is fantasy MVP up till now with 18,06 points. Young Spanish left winger scored 13 goals, grab 6 steals, won 8 sprints in first 4 matches.

Iosep: I knew that everybody will go for the star players in first rounds, and I will have the oportunity later to take some good players that will give me important points in the game. I know very well the players from the Spanish championship (playing 8 years there) and I trust them a lot. If I cannot have them in Steaua, at least I can have them here J.

This year it seems that competition is more demanding, and rivals in fantasy are tougher.

Iosep: Definitely are very tough opponents here, but my goal is just to beat Sean and Vjeko J.

Sean King is rookie in expert fantasy league, and he said to have only one goal, to be in front of Andrei Iosep. Is there background story of this rivarly?

Iosep: Sean is a good friend of mine, we are both very competitive and we make a bet before starting this game. A dinner in a very nice restaurant for the winner.

In some situation, chating with other Experts, Iosep were suprised with some referee interpetation of new rules. New rules, same old story, interpretation.

Iosep: Normally, every time when there are some changes in the rules it is a little bit of cunfusion at the beginning. It is for us, like coches, it is for players and obviuosly for referees as well.  I will try to bring the best international Romanian referee at the beginning of the season to explain us (to me and my players) the vision of them (referes) regarding the new rules and adapt them immediately in our game.

We have 4 great matches in quarter final. First one between Serbia and Spain. Spain will try to stop Mandić, keep Lazić and Vico further from 2 meter line, and if Granados  scores at least 4 goals, it would be great for Poker faces.

Iosep: I think a big factor in match will be the duel between Munarriz and Mandic, probably Alberto will start closely defending the main Serbia scorer. What can make difference in this game is the contribution of the goalies. Risticevic was incredible against the great shooters of Greece saving 16 of 19 shots on the goal. If he will have a similar performance on the next game, Spain will have a very difficult task.

It seems that Perrone is not it form like he was when playing in Jug under Kobescak?

Iosep: Perrone is the „father” of this young team of Spain. He is the coach in the water, and the player who organize everything there, the „voice“ of David Martin. Maybe he didn’t scored so much, but remains one of the reference of this team and a player to take in account.

Vjeko Kobescak is an magician, he know to extract the maximum from each player. He gave probably a lot of freedom to Felipe in that time and he felt so confortable on that period, scoring a lot of decisive goals.

Sean King, young coach from Great Britain is one of 4 new competitios this year Danč Expert Fantasy. Name of his team is Rottator Cuffs.

Sean: It has been fantastic and meant I have followed the WC games closely. I’m not so sure my wife has enjoyed it soo much! Name is actually a suggestion from my father. The rotator cuff, I think their are 3, is part of the shoulder that many water polo players will have aggravated or injured during their careers more often that not from overuse.

On draft, he took Fountoulis and Genidounias as two first players for his team. But they had toughest group (SER, MNE and KOR) and hard matches and did not bring as much as Sean hopped.

Sean: They are two players I really like but also Fountoulis was a big scorer during the previous fantasy tournament. During the last two games, Fountoulis, and Greece for that matter, haven’t reached the level we would expect and are used to. Genidouanis was prolific in the Champions League.

Rottator Cuffs started good, 3rd place after 2nd round. But now struggling on 8th. But only 3.6 points behind Vjeko Kobescak on 4th.

Sean: I was very excited after round 2! Round 3 was a disaster and I was hoping round 4 could recover some that damage (with the top 4 teams not involved) but MNE vs AUS brought me very few points and represented over half my team! There are still plenty of points to play for and it’s made the competition more exciting that there is so little separating 4th & 10th

In the beginning Sean had only one goal, to be in front of Iosep. And also, Sean explained what is background story of this rivarly? And for now, with Iosep far on top, it seems, he will have to wait next opportunity, next year, to beat his friend in the game of fantasy.

Sean: Haha! Andrei is a very good friend but also a mentor. He’s like an older brother. Having played against each other with the national team we became team mates in CW Navarra, where when he wasn’t beating the guys at poker he was teaching me so much about the sport. He changed my whole view of the sport and how it should be played. He became my coach during his time with GB. This was the best period for GB with some very good results (beating Holland, drawing with France & narrowly losing to Russia in European Qualifications). When I was the U19 GB coach he flew over to the qualification tournament to help me, which was fantastic as we became the first GB team to qualify for Junior Europeans in 10 years.

From Sean perspective, can these new rules narrow the difference between top teams and for example USA and Australia?

Sean: It is certainly designed to narrow the gap but I don’t think it will bring about a shift in the teams that normally contest the latter stages of each major competition. Due to geography, USA and Australia for example cannot get close to the number of high level games their European opponents play with not only their National Team but club also during each season. I am worried what will happen come Tokyo when teams will be reduced to 11, especially with the potential for many more exclusions.

England and Great Britain water polo are rarely read about.  Can we expect team on some European Championship soon, maybe i next ten years?

Sean: England water polo is in a difficult situation. In comparison to some of the more prestigious European water polo nations, we have more clubs and registered players but the quality is low and diluted. Those involved in National Team squads must pay all their own costs as well as those of the coaches. For major competitions, like the Junior Europeans or World University Games, that works out as a few thousand or more, which is sadly meaning that we are missing out on potential very talented players who simply cannot afford to be part of the programme.

What we do have is talented individuals who would thrive and flourish in the right environment, one which for a variety of reasons can only be found in one place in he UK. I was very hopeful that our first Junior European qualification and our Junior Women finishing 6th in Europe would be a catalyst for change but unfortunately, it would seem, our governing body does not want to support a better water polo programme and certainly not at the expense of swimming.

We mentioned Fountoulis and Genidounias, but Rottator Cuffs also have Velotto and Aicardi in fantasy lineup, so Sean will be closely wathing match between Italy and Greece.

Sean: I don’t think we have seen the best of Greece yet and I expect it to be very close. I do wonder if some of Greece’s top players are exhausted after such a long and successful season, but I’m sure they need no motivation for a World quarter final with Olympic qualification the prize for the top 2. I will most definitely be watching and hoping that my four involved have strong games.

Similarly, we haven’t seen Italy at its best and I’m sure, with an extra days rest and preparation, they will feel refreshed and clear in their minds about how the intend to approach the Greece game. I could see it being decided on penalties.

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