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The FINA/LEN Europa Cup Final Eight for men was opened today in Zagreb (Croatia). The quarterfinals were played on Day 1.

Two winners of gold medals at the major competitions last year didn’t manage to advance to the semifinals. Montenegro, the 2018 World League gold medalists, was defeated by Hungary (7:11), while Spain edged out European champion Serbia (13:12).

Reigning Europa cup champion Croatia, the host of the Final Eight, recorded a win over Greece (13:11). Italy reached the semifinals by beating Russia (11:9).

Pairings for the semifinals:
Italy – Hungary
Croatia – Spain

The 2nd LEN Europa Cup is also the qualification tournament for the FINA World League Super Final, which will take place in Belgrade (June 18 – 23). The best three teams from the Europa Cup will qualify for the Super Final. Serbia, as a host, is automatically qualified.

Hungary – Montenegro

The tournament was opened by a replay of the last season’s World League final. Montenegro, the 2018 WL champion, faced Hungary. Last year, Montenegro defeated Hungary in the final in Budapest after penalty shootout (13:11). Today, there were no thrills in the finish of the game. The Hungarians led for most of the time. They built a 3-goal advantage in the second quarter (5:2, 6:3). Everything was decided in the 27th minute. Montenegro’s Vladan Spaic was sent off because of a brutality foul (he punched a Hungarian player). He was excluded with substitution after 4 minutes. Hungary was 8:6 up at that moment. Playing 6 on 5 for four minutes, the Hungarians earned a big 11:6 advantage. The final score was 11:7.

Spain – Serbia

The second encounter of the day also offered a replay of a big final that was played last year. European champion Serbia clashed Spain. Eight and a half months ago, Serbia overcame Spain in a penalty shootout (12:10) in the final of the 33rd European Championships in Barcelona. The hosts of the 2018 European Championships took revenge this time. After a flood of goals in the first quarter, Spain had a slim 5:4 lead before the second period. Led by Alberto Munnariz (5 goals this evening), the Spaniards built a 3-goal gap by the halftime (8:5), while they were 10:6 up deep into the third period.

The Serbs were coming back from time to time, but they couldn’t equalize. Mallarach gave the Spaniards a new 4-goals advantage in the 27th minute when he found the net for 13:9. Serbia came very close (12:13) with 01:36 remaining on the clock. The European and the Olympic champions even had a chance to equalize in the last attack, but they didn’t manage to catch the Spaniards, which advanced to the semifinals with a narrow victory (13:12).

Italy – Russia

As expected, Italy defeated Russia in the third quarterfinal, but the “Settebello” didn’t have an easy task. The teams fought a hard battle. There were a lot of twists and turns. Italy had a 6:4 lead in the second quarter. The Russians responded with 4 goals in a row and they earned an 8:6 advantage deep into the third quarter. Italy produced a 5:0 run and jumped to an 11:8 lead 38 seconds before the last buzzer. The Russians hit the back of the net in their last attack for the final score – 11:9. The top scorer was Gonzalo Echenique (4 goals).

Croatia – Greece

The quarterfinal day was completed by the match Croatia vs. Greece. The Croats, who are World champions, as well as the Europa Cup title-holders, secured the win in the third quarter. Greece had a slim 6:5 lead in the last minute of the first half. The hosts equalized nine seconds before the big break (6:6). They added three goals for their first 3-goal advantage – 9:6 (02:27 before the end of the 3rd quarter). Luka Loncar found the net in the Croats’ first possession in the 4th quarter to build a 4-goal gap (11:7). In the middle of the quarter, Croatia had a 12:8 advantage and there was no way back for Greece. Croatia won 13:11.

2nd FINA/LEN Europa Cup, quarterfinals

Hungary 11:7 Montenegro
(4:2, 2:3, 1:1, 4:1)

Hungary: De. Varga 3, Zalnaki 2, Vamos, Sedlmayer, Pohl, Batori, Harai.
Montenegro: Ivovic 2, Janovic 2, Dj. Radovic, M. Petkovic, Cuckovic.

Spain 13:12 Serbia
(5:4, 3:1, 3:4, 2:3)

Spain: Munnariz 5, Tahull 2, Mallarach 2, Perrone, Bustos Sanchez, Barroso.
Serbia: Mandic 3, V. Rasovic 2, Pijetlovic 2, Filipovic 2, Prlainovic 2, Lazic.

Italy 11:9 Russia
(3:3, 3:2, 1:3, 4:1)

Italy: Echenique 4, Aicardi 2, Figlioli 2, Molina, Velotto, N. Presciutti.
Russia: Vasilev 2, Nagaev 2, Shepelev 2, Merkulov, Kholod, Lisunov.

Greece 11:13 Croatia
(2:1, 4:5, 1:4, 4:3)

Greece: Fountoulis 3, Gounas 2, Vlachopoulos 2, Genidounias, Papanastasiou, Dervisis, Mourikis.
Croatia: Fatovic 3, Vrlic 2, Setka 2, Garcia 2, Jokovic 2, Loncar, Buljubasic.

Saturday, April 5th

Semifinals
Places 5- 8
Montenegro – Russia (15)
Serbia – Greece (16.45)

Places 1 – 4
Hungary – Italy (18.30)
Spain – Croatia (20.15)

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