Gold medal match – Spain v Greece 9-6

Not long after the usual intro music was played – AC/DC’s Thunderstruck – and the usual protocol was observed, Spain produced the perfect storm in the opening eight minutes. Elena Ruiz’s pinpoint shot was a fine opener in the 27th second, Nona Perez added another action goal 1:50 seconds later, then Martina Terre stopped Eleftheria Plevritou’s penalty. She went on saving a shot in a man-down by the other Plevritou sibling Vasiliki, and still in the first Anni Espar scored a third action goal – Spain led 3- 0, without playing a single man-up in the first period.

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But after each storm there is sunshine – and soon the Greeks’ sun came up too. Ionna Chydirioti could finally put away a woman-up to score her team’s first after 9:24 minutes and that got them going. Though Paula Leiton’s superpower brought the 4th for the Spaniards, the Greeks could shut them out for the remaining 5:12 minutes – including killing three woman-downs – while adding two more. Margarita Plevritou netted a 6 on 5, then Christina Siouti finished off a counter for 4-3.

The third produced an extraordinary battle with dramatic misses and fantastic defensive efforts. Terre stopped a second penalty, this time taken by Vasiliki Plevritou – but Ioanna Stamatopoulou also saved Anni Espar’s shot from the 5m line. In this whirlwind of craziness, a third penalty was called in 1:36 minutes, and Elena Ruiz converted this one for 5-3. It turned out to be the lonely goal in this period, so Spain looked to be well set to retain their title.

However, there were still eight minutes to play – and there were still plenty of drama to watch. Eleni Xenaki pulled one back right away from a nicely play 6 on 5 but Maica Garcia scored a fantastic goal from the centre immediately. The Greeks missed a man-up but Eleftheria Plevritou scored from action for 6-5 with 5:04 to go and exactly one minute later it was even – Chrydioti was lucky to collect a rebound after a saved shot in an extra and she put it to the empty net.

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But again, the Spanish reply was immediate, this time from a 6 on 5, by Beatriz Ortiz. Greece had an extra, but it started to fall apart and soon a turnover foul was called – and then they desperately tried to create more danger, they didn’t get any closer. And there came Garcia again, doubled the Spanish lead with another fantastic centre-action for 8-6 – with 1:32 on the clock, it was a game-winner. The Greeks couldn’t do much and Anni Espar managed to add one more, the goal ‘made’ the VAR-validation too – it was the coronation moment for Spain, for the third time since 2014.

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Miki Oca, coach, Spain
“I am very satisfied with this gold medal. We knew it was a hard and a tough game. Greece is a very good team. Great defence, great shooters and good centre-forwards. This is our second title in a row, but each tournament is different from the other. We did this time very well, but you never know what is going to happen in the future. Because what you did in the others championships, it is something that is done, and you always have to be focus on the present, and the competition.”

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Alexia-Anna Kammenou, coach, Greece

“We were playing against the most experienced team in Europe in the final. Our defense was not working in the beginning but we started to work on it during the match and I think it was working better in the second quarter. About the match, I don’t want to say more we need to see the video to analyse it, but I am satisfied with our players. I think team Spain has the best coach in Europe and he knows a lot about water polo and he can give these in information, tactics and all the great things to his players. I’m very proud of my girls because they are so young. Our team is the youngest team here at the European Championships, so of course they need to improve, but they were doing a great job here. They didn’t want to lose the finals, they were fighting for the gold, but we are so satisfied with the silver medal too.”

Maica Garcia, player, Spain

“I’m super happy, I am very proud of this team. During all tournaments we gave the best of us and today the game showed all what we did. Our defence today worked great. We kept our positions all the time. Greeks played a great game too. This is amazing!”

Anni Espar, player, Spain

“It was a very intense match, but we did well, in defence we were great, although in some critical moments. Both teams played great today. For us, to be European Champion second time in a row is amazing. We worked a lot to keep our title and we knew that we could achieve it here again. There is no pressure, we are going to work for the next goals, the Worlds and the Olympic Games. What a great evening!”

Margarita Plevritou, captain, Greece

“It was s tough game. We knew that Spain is a really good team. We tried to do our best, but we didn’t show that in the gamem and we never played on the level we can. We are disappointed about the game, but it’s the final, so we are happy with this achievement.”

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Eirini Ninou, player, Greece

“It was a difficult match. We knew that even before the start. We didn’t start well in defence. We were not concetrated enough, we received too many goals. After that we tried to balance our game, but then we made some quick shots, but failed to score. We are proud of ourselves, this is still a very good result. We will learn from this for future events.”