Hungary beats the world champion, reaches the final again

  • Eight weeks after a devastating 7th place finish at home in Budapest at the FINA World Championships
  • Hungary is back in business: with a new coach and a brand-new team they managed to beat world champion Spain and they are set to retain their title.

Hungary v Spain 10-8

The game started where their last one had finished back in January 2020. Alvaro Granados faced Soma Vogel from the penalty line – back than Vogel made the save and that won the title for the Magyars –, now he hit the post 25 seconds into the game. Here of course there were plenty of time to play, and within a minute Granados took the shot in a man-up and hit the back of the net. Toni Nemet replied from the centre with a fine goal, but the Spanish went on scoring, Bernat Sanahuja’s shot from the perimeter was precise, followed by a fine man-up play which gave Spain a 1-3 lead. The Magyars missed their first one and otherwise were forced to outside shots by the well-organised Spanish zone. A block denied Granados on his next try in a man-up while at the other end Szilard Jansik put the second extra away for 2-3, with 7 seconds on the clock.

The first Spanish man-up was also ended on the blocks (twice) early in the second, but not the next one as it found Roger Tahull unguarded after the exclusion – at this stage it was a sharp contrast that the Spaniards could feed the ball to the centre easily, while the Magyars could not, so they didn’t have too many chances to score. Though once Nemet managed to break free, earned a penalty and Krisztian Manhercz made no mistake. And once he got going, he equalised in 45 seconds from the perimeter – after four minutes of struggling, the Magyars were back at 4-4. 

Hungary is back in business – LEN Total Waterpolo

Granados found a hole among the arms in the next man-up, but Adam Nagy was also on target in the following extra and just like Manhercz, he also doubled down within 53 seconds to put his team ahead for the first time. Things got worse from the Spanish perspective when Gergely Burian pushed the ball through Aguirre’s arms from an impossible angle – in the last four minutes the Hungarians hit five to take a 5-7 lead.

The break not only halted but turned back the trends – though Vogel could put a hand on Granados’ shot in a man-down, but the ball bounced in from the crossbar, while Aguirre managed to save Vendel Vigvari’s shot in an extra. Vogel made a huge save in the next Spanish extra though, and also in the third (though it was rather a missed push from close). At the other end it started to get similar to the first and a half periods – apart from that missed extra, the Magyars couldn’t do much harm while Alberto Munarriz blasted one from the perimeter for 7-7, after they recollected another rebound after a blocked first shot (that was their 5th second chance in the game).

LEN Total Waterpolo

The Hungarians’ next man-up was blocked, and Burian couldn’t sell his sharp angle attempt again after the rebound, while Vogel flew out from his goal to steal the pass in the Spaniards’ extra. Manhercz’s bouncer came off from the bar in their third 6 on 5 with 20 seconds to go – so the Magyars were unable to score in this period, thus the last one kicked off from 7-7. Fun fact: both goalies stood with 8/15 at this stage, a lot were on their shoulders in the fourth.

Both made a save at the beginning, Aguirre’s one was the bigger as he managed to push Jansik’s 2m shot to the bar in a man-down. Gergo Zalanki broke the deadlock 2:17 minutes into the fourth after a fine counter-like attack – while the Spaniards’ 6 on 5 was killed by a block. Then Adam Nagy made a steal, joined the attack and sent an untimely bouncer under the bar – Hungary was 9-7 up with 4:03 to go and Spain needed a time-out but that was not much help. Vogel stopped Perrone’s shot in a man-down and the Hungarians delivered one more from their super-patient possession, setting up Erik Molnar 2sec from time whose one-timer from the wing was as good as it could be – and it virtually ended the contest at 10-7. The Magyars were flying, denied a 6 on 4 with 1:20 on the clock – guess what, by another block: they 12, an astonishing effort (Spain had 3). Their rivals could net another extra for 10-8, but with 34 seconds on the clock it didn’t bother the Magyars who wildly celebrated of reaching the final after 2020 again.

Add: this happens to them just eight weeks after they had hit the rock bottom by finishing 7th at the home World Championships in Budapest (second all-time worst performance), which led to the change of the head coach (the last time the boss was sacked in the middle of an Olympic cycle dates back to 1989). And now Zsolt Varga, who had coached Ferencvaros to three medal-winning performance in the last three editions of the Champions League (including a win in 2019), led his newly shaped side to the final. By beating the team which won that World Championships eight weeks ago.


First of all, congratulations for both teams, it was a fantastic game – LEN Total Waterpolo

Zsolt Varga, coach, Hungary

“First of all, congratulations for both teams, it was a fantastic game, everyone gave its utmost in this
match. It was a really exciting contest, with a lot of twists, at first Spain was ahead, we just chased
them, in the first period we were still searching for our rhythm a bit. What was important that we never
started panicking, the players knew that the defence was more important than anything else and they
stuck to that principle. That gave us the opportunity to finally find our rhythm in the attack. Well, in
defence you have schemes you practice a lot, while in offence we have some patterns, but there the
players’ genius always plays an important role, just like today. I knew if we could stay close in the first
half we will have a chance in the second and especially at the end, as we may have more in the tank for
the finish. And it happened as I expected. This is a great result, we are happy, but I told before this
championship that the result is secondary, I want to see that our game is developing and it’s getting
more and more consistent. Well, I cannot complain of that as of now either.”

David Martin, coach, Spain

“Today Hungary played great, was amazing in defence and we couldn’t find the goal, we didn’t play the
man-up situations well. I want to congratulate Hungary for this match and for their amazing tournament
they are having. There is still one match to go and it will be the bronze medal game, and we want this
medal. All medals are important and we are going to fight for the place on the podium.”

Today Hungary played great, was amazing in defence and we couldn’t find the goal – LEN Total Waterpolo

Adam Nagy, player, Hungary

“This was a real team-effort once again. It’s so great to see that we are cheering for each other, even
after a block, this team is really a unit, and we are there for each other and no one wants to find the
solutions in his own, no individual stands beyond the team and this is how we got to the final. Today it
was once again the defence which brought us the win, we did everything according to our coach’s plan.
Before coming to this championship, we had a joint training camp with the Spanish, had four or five
practice matches, man-up practices… Well, I can tell you they beat us every time, by four-five goals at
least. But at the same time, they forced us to raise our game, as these matches showed that we must
focus much better in order to have a chance here. That camp helped us a lot and we learnt a lot – also on
their game which we used now.”

Soma Vogel, goalie, Hungary

“It was a great win, a great team-effort, the guys had a lot of blocks, more than any time before, so it
was much easier for me. Now we have to put all our energies left into the final and we are hoping for
the best. We have to keep going this patient game in both in defense and offense, and we have to play as
a team. With this mentality, I think, we can win the final whoever is going to be our opponent.”

Alvaro Granados, player, Spain

“Very hard defeat… We did so many mistakes and we played with a lot of anxiety and tensions. We lost  this game. I have no more words…” 

Felipe Perrone, captain, Spain 

“Today we didn’t play good enough. Maybe this was one of our worst matches. We reached the semi finals and it was great. Today we lost, but now we are going to fight for the bronze medal. We have to  bounce back, our heads have to be up and we have to fight for the bronze medal, from the beginning  until the end.”