© Giorgo Scala / deepbluemedia

Serbia win 3rd straight European Championships

Ten years after the historic win in Belgrade and for the third straight time Serbia are the European champions. A big final against Montenegro was won 10-8 in front of a sell-out crowd of 16,000 in the Kombank Arena in Belgrade on Saturday. The Serbs got off slow to finally overcome their rivals in the final period. The exclamation point was for Milan Aleksic who had also opened the scoring for Serbia. His finishing on a counter attack following a Nikola Janovic turnover had everyone on their feet with 26 seconds remaining.
Top scorers for the winners were Milos Cuk, Aleksic and Andrija Prlainovic who eached netted a pair of shots. For Montenegro, again falling to Serbia in a European final after the close defeat in 2012 and semifinal loss in 2014, were Darko Brguljan, Aleksandar Radovic and Nikola Janovic scoring 2 goals apiece.

The start definitely belonged to Montenegro. The visitors were focussed and right on target from the start. Nikola Vukcevic on man-up and Aleksandar Ivovic on one of his powerful free-throw shots got Montenegro up 0-2 before Milan Aleksic responded for the home team as the shot clock expired scoring from outside.
But the Montenegrins were not done. They simply looked better and continued to score. Nikola Janovic on man-up from 'his' left wing halfway through the quarter. Now the Serbs tried to set up the defensive organisation rather the explode on the offensive end. It resulted in a 'dedlock' that held on the entire quarter. And so most of the fans present at the Kombank Arena knew the home team was up for a challenge when the first quarter was over.

Not exactly as planned but not the first time this happened to the Serbian team in a big final. Sometimes one can believe that the team needs these challenges to rise to the occasion. And that 'occasion' was a big one this time. 16,000 fans, majorly in favour of Serbia, shouted the team into finally starting to score as the game really went on in the second period. Andrija Prlainovic, announced tournament Most Valuable Player, came through early in the quarter and Milos Cuk saw an opening on extra man and struck to tie the game at 3. Now the defence got more fierce, the game more physical and goal fewer. Aleksandar Radovic was unstoppable on man-up late in the quarter to once more put Montenegro in the lead. And so still at half-time Serbia trailed. The Montenegrins meanwhile more and more got the feeling that they might make it to the big win over their rivals, even in Belgrade. A tense and close third period followed with goals being exchanged. Still however the Montenegrins had the lead and it was Serbia who had to fight back to tie on 3 occasions. But resillient as the team is, they did as Dusan Mandic rose up for a rocket from 5 metres in the near corner, Filip Filipovic struck from the right side on man-up and Andrija Prlainovic surprised Montenegro goalkeeper with a 'donut' on extra man from outside, the last for the 6-6 score.

Despite the initiative was with Montenegro, they simply could not get away from their neighbours. It got back to the Vladimir Gojkovic coached side in the final quarter. Here Milos Cuk finally got the Serbs in the lead scoring 1 minute into the period with a nice slider. And things really started to turn around when Dusko Pijetlovic was the next one to score, from a free throw that slipped through underneath Scepanovic' arms from 5 meters out halfway through the period. In between Montenegro started to struggle playing the Serbian defence that was rolling like we know it tightening in front of the goal where Gojko Pijetlovic, replacing Branislav Mitrovic after the third quarter, made some nice saves to get the momentum going with the Serbs. With the game on the line, and Montenegro top shooter and defender Aleksandar Ivovic dealing with a severe finger injury, suffered early in the quarter, the Montenegrins remained scoreless and got finished off in the game's final minutes. Nikola Jaksic was right there to tip in a nice cross pass from the wing on man-up for the 9-6 score and electrify the crowd at the Kombank Arena who looked to realise the 3rd straight European championship was now within reach. Montenegro had different plans as Aleksandar Radovic hit his 2nd of the game in the next attack on a mighty free throw to get the score to 9-7. And with still 3 minutes on the clock, theoratically nothing was played. That got proven as Nikola Janovic scored an incredible corner-shot on man-up just beating Gojko Pijetlovic cross-cage to get his team back to 9-8. But it proved the last that the Serbian defence 'gave away'. Next attempts by Ivovic, Darko Brguljan and Mladjan Janovic all were blocked or saved. And then a turnover call on Nikola Janovic at the centre-forward position, a little doubtful, was punished in a fast counter attack by Milan Aleksic who got through alone with time to beat Scepanovic, did so, as the Kombank Arena exploded. Heavy protesting about the earlier offensive call got Ivovic excluded with substitution while also Nikola Janovic did not hide his dissatisfaction. In a chaotic final attack for Montenegro Zivko Gocic was excluded but Aleksandar Radovic was already rising for a shot, which was saved by Pijetlovic so that Serbia could play out the clock and celebrations began.

2016 European Championships individual awards

Top Scorer: Steven Camilleri (Malta) 21 goals
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Andrija Prlainovic (Serbia)
Best Goalkeeper: Viktor Nagy (Hungary)

Photo: Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia.

Photo: Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia.

Germany vs. The Netherlands

To kick off the action of the final day of the championships Germany claimed 11th place beating neighbours the Netherlands 9-7. After a close first half the Germans grabbed control of the score in the final quarter and held on for the 2-goal win closing out their two-week tournament in Belgrade. Julian Real got Germany leading 7-6 halfway through the third term and when Heiko Nossek converted a penalty shot early in the final session the Germans looked in the driver's seat. Things got decided at the 5.00 mark when Erik Bukowski hit and put the Germans up 9-6. Jesse Koopman concluded the scoring, netting one for the Netherlands but in the final three minutes the Robin van Galen coached side could not force a comeback. And so have the Dutch to settle for 12th place but reach their main goal which was making it to the Olympic qualification tournament in Trieste, Italy from April 3-10. Germany will be present as well and, as it turned out, even 13th ranked Slovakia will go.

Romania vs. France

France have closed out their 2016 Europeans campaign on a positive note by beating Romania 6-12 to finish in 9th place. Two years ago in Budapest, in the semifinals for the 7th place, France fell to Romania 8-15, this time however they managed to turn the tables. The Romanians were outplayed by the French in the first half and never overcame their 2-8 half-time deficit. Meanwhile France were firing on all cylinders on Saturday morning. A variety of goals including a highlight tip-in by Enzo Khasz got the French running away to a 1-6 in the opening period. And as Mehdi Marzouki (his 3rd) and centre forward Romain Blary hit for France in the second quarter, Romania knew only a major comeback could turn around this game. That did not happen, in fact the French scored two more after the main break, to lead 2-10, before Dimitri Goanta finally struck for the Romanians. Therewith the game was played. France remained in control, saw Marzouki scoring two more in the final period before Daniel Teohari decided the final score at 6-12. A clear win for the French that could mean the necessary spot to qualify for the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, although that will depend on the final rankings of this season's World League and the 2016 Olympics, and so will be known later.

Russia vs. Croatia

Croatia have taken 7th place at the 2016 European Championships. In a controlled second half Russia were defeated 5-13 on Saturday. Luka Bukic and Andelo Setka (pictured) led the scoring for the Croatian side who took an early 0-2 lead and walked away in the second half. Russia conclude their Europeans campaign with a nice 8th spot after the reaching the quarterfinals after beating Germany 9-6 in the crossover round. The Croatians were already qualified to the 2016 Olympics, thanks to place in the final of the 2015 World Championships in Kazan. For Russia the next step will be playing the Olympic qualification tournament in Trieste (April 3-10).
Four years ago Croatia finished the 2012 European Championships in Eindhoven (also held in January) in only 9th place but went on to win the World League and later on the 2012 Olympic Games in that season.

Spain vs. Italy

Spain defeated Italy in a nice match for 5th place. A strong outing in the first half by the Spaniards got utterly close in the second half as the Italians crawled back. In the final period a rocket from way out in the top left corner by Guillermo Molina put Spain up 8-6 which proved decisive. But the Spanish defence had to work very hard to hold off the Italians. Alex Giorgetti quickly tried or the consolation goal failing on 2 attempts before hitting the 3rd to get the score back to 8-7 wth 2.20 remaining. Then Gonzalo Echenique tried on the other hand but saw his shot being saved and after an exclusion for Francisco Fernandez the final minute became a tough one for Spain. Daniel Lopez had to make 2 big saves in the final moments to keep Spain in the lead but they held on as the Spaniards could look back to a successful campaign in Belgrade confirming their favourite role to take one of the four available spots for the Rio Olympics, available in Trieste early April.

Greece vs. Hungary

Hungary claimed the bronze medal at the European Championships after the Hungarian women won gold yesterday. Thanks to a strong and inspired start to the game the Hungarians defeated Greece 10-13 in a solid performance. The Greek meanwhile, trailing early simply thanks to a huge difference on the shooting percentage, lacked the fire and power to overcame 4-8 deficit at half-time and never endangered the Magyars in the remainder, in fact even falling behind more in the third session. Scoring the game's final three goals however had the difference in the score being cut to 3 in the end. Top scorer for the winners was Marton Vamos who was a force from the right side scoring 3 goals. Bence Batori, Norbert Hosnyanszky, Adam Decker, Krisztian Manhercz and Balazs Harai each added 2. Hungary came off a silver-medal winning performance at the 2014 Europeans at home in Budapest.

2016 European Championships
Belgrade (SRB)

Kombank Arena

Programme and results

Saturday, January 23:

Germany vs. Netherlands 9-7 (2-1, 3-4, 2-1, 2-1) - men (11th/12th place classification)
Germany scorers: Erik Bukowski 2, Julian Real 2, Heiko Nossek 2, Maurice Jüngling, Mateo Cuk, Marin Restovic.

Netherlands scorers: Robin Lindhout 2, Jesse Koopman 2, Jorn Winkelhorst, Lars Gottemaker, Lars Reuten.

Romania vs. France 6-12 (1-6, 1-2, 1-2, 3-2) - men (9th/10th place classification)
Romania scorers: Cosmin Radu 2, Tiberiu Negrean, Daniel Teohari, Dimitri Goanta, Alex Popoviciu.

France scorers: Mehdi Marzouki 5, Romain Blary 3, Ugo Crousillat 2, Enzo Khasz, Alexandre Camarasa.

Russia vs. Croatia 5-13 (0-2, 3-3, 1-4, 1-4)
- men (7th/8th place classification)
Russia scorers: Igor Bychkov 2, Dmitrii Kholod 2, Daniil Merkulov.

Croatia scorers: Luka Bukic 3, Andelo Setka 3, Andro Buslje 2, Damir Buric, Luka Loncar, Ante Vukicevic, Sandro Sukno, Boris Pavlovic.

Spain vs. Italy 8-7 (2-1, 4-2, 1-3, 1-1) - men (5th/6th place classification)
Spain scorers: Alberto Munarriz 2, Guillermo Molina 2, Marc Minguell, Roger Tahull, Blai Mallarach, Gonzalo Echenique.

Italy scorers: Alex Giorgetti 3, Francesco di Fulvio, Pietro Figlioli, Valentino Gallo, Stefano Luongo.

Greece vs. Hungary 10-13 (2-4, 2-4, 1-2, 5-3) - men (3th/4th place classification)
Greece scorers: Angelos Vlachopoulos 4, Christos Afroudakis 2, Konstantinos Mourikis 2, Konstantinos Genidounias, Ioannis Fountoulis.

Hungary scorers: Marton Vamos 3, Bence Batori 2, Norbert Hosnyanszky 2, Adam Decker 2, Krisztian Manhercz 2, Balazs Harai 2.

Serbia vs. Montenegro 10-8 (1-3, 2-1, 3-2, 4-2) - men (1st/2nd place classification)
Serbia scorers: Milos Cuk 2, Milan Aleksic 2, Andrija Prlainovic 2, Dusan Mandic, Dusko Pijetlovic, Nikola Jaksic, Filip Filipovic.

Montenegro scorers: Darko Brguljan 2, Aleksandar Radovic 2, Nikola Janovic 2, Aleksandar Ivovic, Nikola Vukcevic.

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