Split 2022 – Women’s Event – Preview

Split 2022 – Introduction – Women’s Event:

The 12-strong tournament features eight former medallists in the form of Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Greece, France and Germany.

The battle for the gold is starting – LEN Total Waterpolo

The women’s water polo tournament was launched in the Norwegian capital Oslo in 1985 when the ladies – for the only time – played a separate tournament.

Since then, the Netherlands as well as Italy and Russia celebrated three consecutive titles respectively (Netherlands: 1985-1987-1989, Russia 2006-2008-2010, Italy 1995-1997-1999). Italy and the Netherlands hope to make it half a dozen golds, while Hungary might achieve its 15th medal at Europeans.

Spain winning the European title in Budapest 2020 – LEN Total Waterpolo

Spain, however, should not be forgotten as they won both editions in Budapest (in 2014 and 2020) and finished runner-up at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

While in the men’s tournament there were some trends in the last 10-12 years (winning streaks for the Serbs, Croatia’s big run at the Worlds, Spain’s consecutive finals recently), there was no sure bet in any women’s tournament.

Globally, the US have been near unbeatable – at least in the knock-out phases of major tournaments – the challengers have varied. Italy were the runners-up at the Rio 2016 Olympics, while Spain had a good run (2017 Worlds, 2019 Worlds, Tokyo 2021). Hungary then pushed the Americans close at this year’s World Championships in July.

At the Europeans, the trends have been similar. The last seven editions saw six different champions, only Spain could win twice (2014, 2020).

Group A

A nice ‘company’ was drawn together – the two most successful teams in history, Hungary with a record of 14 medals (third at the Olympics, second at the home Worlds), and the Netherlands, the all-time medal ranks leader with 5 titles and 12 podiums.

The two clashed for the bronze two years ago, then in Tokyo in the crucial quarters, the Magyars prevailed on both occasions. Add Greece, silver medallist three times in the last seven championships (2010, 2012, 2018), which painfully missed the last three Olympics, and it was the Dutch who ousted them in the decisive game before Tokyo – and the scene set for a handful of thrilling matches among these three giants.

While in the men’s matches underdogs may cause some headaches to the big boys, in the women’s tourney the gap between the top six (now five, with Russia being away) and the others are way wider.

So Romania, Germany – the team can only participate thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign by the girls initiated before the Europeans – and host Croatia should focus on the matches against each other; indeed one of them can make the cut for the quarters.

Netherlands the all-time medal ranks leader with 5 titles and 12 podiums – LEN Total Waterpolo

Group B

The top two spots can already be assigned – though it’s yet to be seen if Spain or Italy grabs the first place. Indeed, the Spaniards have been a constant presence at the top level, played three straight finals with the USA at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships and at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and made the semi-finals at the last four Europeans, won twice and arrives here at the title-holders.

Still, back in July they missed the semis for the first time since the Rio Olympics (lost to the USA in the quarters, though), so they need to bounce back from that disappointment.

As for bouncing back, Italy did a fine job at this year’s Worlds already after their new head coach, Carlo Silipo started the rebuilding process as the Setterosa missed the Olympics for the first time since 2000. In Budapest, they had a shot at the medals but lost to the Netherlands in the bronze medal match (5-7) – so they are still waiting for a first podium at the majors since 2016 when they left the European Championships in Belgrade with a bronze in their hand.

Among the chasers, France has a fine history from the early years, claimed bronze in 1987 and 1989 – though they have never come close to that anymore. Serbia may step up to become their fiercest rival for the third place here – the team developed a lot since the home Europeans in 2016.

Israel is also getting better and better, they invest a lot to have a fine team for the next edition, to be played in Tel-Aviv, so they will surely have a shot to upset the French or the Serbs in their big games. Slovakia, called on stage after Russia had to stay away, returned to the spotlight in Budapest 2020 after 27 years and they can test themselves again here in Split.

Water Polo Champions – WOMEN:

World Champion 2015                        USA

European Champion 2016                   Hungary

Olympic Champion 2016                     USA

World League Winner 2016                 USA

World League Winner 2017                 USA

World Champion 2017                        USA

World League Winner 2018                 USA

European Champion 2018                   Netherlands

World Cup 2018                                 USA

World Champion 2019                        USA

World League 2019                             USA

European Champions 2020                  Spain

Olympic Champion 2021                     USA

World Champion 2022                        USA

Favourites 2022 – Women:


• Greece has a rich history at the Europeans: their best result is a silver medal from 2010 and 2012 and 2018. The Greeks joined the show in 1989, since then they are regular participants. They made the semis 5 times (1995, 2001, 2010, 2012, 2018). However, in the last four editions they missed the SFs three times, in Budapest 2020 they finished 6th.

• Similarly, Greece’s current finishes at the majors have been less thrilling compared to their run between 2009 and 2012. After back-to-back medal rounds at the World Championships (4th in 2009, 1st in 2011), they ended up in the 6th place in the 2013 and 2015 editions, came 7th in Budapest and 8th in Gwangju, and 7th again in Budapest this July.

Greece has a rich history at the Europeans – LEN Total Waterpolo

• After their miraculous march at home at the Olympics in 2004 when they got the silver medal, they came 8th in Beijing and ever since they missed the cut in succession, for London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2021.

• Greece had one gold (2005) and three bronzes (2007, 2010, 2012) from the World League Super Finals.

• Greece played 91 matches in the history of the Europeans (women), they had 43 wins, 4 draws and 44 losses with a goal difference of 836-697.


• The Hungarians took part in each edition since 1985 (the only team besides the Netherlands) and amassed the most medals in the history of the women’s Europeans: 14 – 3 golds, 5 silvers and 6 bronzes. Their wins came in 1991, 2001 and 2016. In their 16 appearances they missed the semis only twice, in 1997 and in 2010, finishing 5th both times. They came 4th in 1999 and in 2018, ended up with a bronze in 2020 at home – all in all, they missed the podium at the Europeans 4 times in 18 editions, no other team was able to produce any similar.

Hungary ended up with a bronze in 2020 at home – LEN Total Waterpolo

• At other majors they had one of the most miserable series in this sport as they lost three straight Olympic semi-finals and then the bronze medal matches as well – in the latter ones they lost by penalties twice (2008, 2016) and in extra-time in 2012, so they finished 4th, before they finally broke their bad run to gain a first-ever Olympic medal in Tokyo, a bronze.

• They captured two world titles, the first in 1994, then another one in 2005 and also had a silver (2001) and a bronze (2013). Their previous three appearances were less successful, finished 9th in 2015, came 5th at home in Budapest in 2017 and 4th in Gwangju last summer. However, this July they made the most of it, claimed silver at the home Worlds, losing surprisingly narrowly to the might US team. The overall picture at the Worlds is mixed: 15 appearances, made the semis 8 times, did not the other 7 times. In the first 8 editions they made it 5 times, then 3 in the following 7.

• After back-to-back bronze medals at the 2013 Worlds and the 2014 Europeans, they had a weaker run at the majors: 2015 Worlds: 9th, 2016 Europeans: 1st, 2016 Olympics: 4th, 2017 World League: 7th, 2017 Worlds: 5th, 2018 World League: eliminated in the prelims, 2018 Europeans: 4th, 2019 World League: 6th, 2019 Worlds: 4th. But on the last three big events they won medals in succession: bronze at the 2020 Europeans, bronze at the 2021 Olympics and silver at the 2022 Worlds.

• Hungary is yet to claim a medal in the World League (came 4th three times, in 2005, 2013 and 2017). In the World Cup they medalled five times in the first six editions (won in 2002, add a silver and three bronzes), but left empty-handed on the last three occasions.

• Between 1985 and 2020 Hungary played 110 matches with 80 wins, 6 draws and 25 losses. Goals: 1372-743 – the Magyars were the second team surpassing the 1000-goal barrier at the Europeans (after the Netherlands).


• Italy is tied first with the Netherlands with 5 titles. They had an amazing run between 1995 and 2006, playing in the finals in 6 consecutive editions, winning four (1995, 1997, 1999, 2003). Their 5th win came in 2012.

• Italy is a specialist at the Europeans: they first entered in 1989 and never missed the semi-finals till 2016. Their streak counted 14 editions, and they missed the podium only 5 times (coming 4th on each occasion). However, this run came to an end in 2018 when they lost the quarter-final to Hungary 10-9, then Russia beat them for the 5th place, and they missed the cut again in Budapest where they finished 5th in 2020.

• The overall Italian tally is still impressive: 5 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes.

• The Italians were Olympic champions in 2004, silver medallists in Rio 2016. Between the two they finished 6th in Beijing and 7th in London. However, for the first time since 2000, they failed to qualify for the Olympics (lost to Hungary in the decisive match).

Italy is a specialist at the Europeans – LEN Total Waterpolo

• At the World Championships they played three back-to-back finals in 1998, 2001 and 2003, winning the first two. However, that great run was followed by modest performances, they finished on the podium only once between 2005 and 2019, had a bronze in 2015. Both in 2017 and 2019 they finished 6th, and did a bit better this July but still went home empty-handed losing the last two matches and finishing 4th. Further placements: 4th in 2011 and in 2022, 5th in 2007, 7th in 2005, 9th in 2009, 10th in 2013.

• They had silvers from the World Cups (1993, 2006) and from the World League Super Finals (2006, 2011, 2014).

• The overall stats for Italy at the Europeans: 99 games, 67 wins, 5 draws and 27 losses. Goal difference: 1072-720.


• The Dutch won the first three editions in 1985-87-89, then a fourth title in 1993 then had to wait 25 years to clinch their fifth one in 2018. They amassed 12 medals, the second most in the field: 5 gold (tied for the most wins with Italy), 4 silvers and 3 bronzes. They reached the finals in three straight editions and after losing to Spain in 2014 and to Hungary in 2016 they overcame the Greeks in 2018. In 2020 they made the semis again but lost to Russia by penalties in the semis and to Hungary in the bronze medal match to finish 4th.

• The Netherlands’ biggest triumph came in 2008 when they won the Olympic title in Beijing, defeating the US in the final. They were fourth in the inaugural tournament in 2000 but missed the cut for three times in five editions. They returned to the big stage in Tokyo but lost to Hungary in the quarters and came 6th at the end.

Netherlands have amassed 12 medals, the second most in the field – LEN Total Waterpolo

• They were world champions in 1991 and have four silvers (1986, 1994, 1998, 2015). At the World Championships, after medalling in the first four editions, they could make the semis only once, in 2015, on the following 10 attempts. They came 5th in 2009, 6th in 2003, 7th in 2011, 2013 and 2019, 9th in 2001, 2007 and 2017 and 10th in 2005. However, this July they finally re-entered the top-flight and came off with a bronze in Budapest 2022.

• They had a silver in the 2018 World League Super Final, their best effort in that competition. Had a bronze in 2015, last year they finished 4th in the Super Final here in the Duna Arena.

• In the World Cup, they had brilliant results in the past, won that title 8 times (1980, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997, 1999).

• The Dutch all-time match stats at the European Championships: played 111, won 81, tied 8 and lost 22. Their goal-difference: 1516-663 – they have the most wins and scored the most goals in the history of the Europeans, they had 6 editions with 100+ goals.


• Spain, the title-holder, debuted at the women’s Europeans in 1993 when they finished 9th and they repeated this two years later. At home, in Seville 1997 they reached the semis for the first time but had to settle for the 4th place. Three straight 6th places followed, then again two semi-final appearances: they came 4th in Belgrade 2006, then clinched their first ever medal, a silver, at home in Malaga 2008. They missed the semis again in 2010 (6th) and in 2012 (5th) but finished atop in 2014. In Belgrade they finished 4th after losing to the Netherlands in the semis by penalties then with a single goal to Italy in the bronze medal match. In 2018, at home they were upset by the Greeks in the semis but managed to earn the bronze against Hungary – they scored the highest number of goals, 145, in the tournament. Overall, they reached the semis 7 times in 14 appearances, earned medals four times, with a gold from Budapest 2020.

Spain, the title-holder – LEN Total Waterpolo

• Besides two Olympic silvers, the world title and the four European medals, they have a bronze from the 2014 World Cup and a silver from the 2016 World League, these are the highlights (and only medals) of their international campaigns. 

• They missed the first three Olympics, then came 2nd in London, 5th in Rio and 2nd in Tokyo.

• They took part in the World Championships in 1998 for the first time (came 9th) and until 2011 they were lifting between the 7th and 11th places. Then came the golden run in Barcelona in 2013 (till date they are the last ones who could defeat the US team in the knockout stage at any majors, that time they beat them in the quarters). In 2015 they slipped back to 7th but two years later in Budapest they marched to the final where they were beaten by the US team and the same happened in Gwangju. In Budapest 2022, they faced the US in the quarters, lost, so after the European gold in 2020 and the Olympic silver in 2021, they were dropped to the 5th place at the Worlds.

• Spain’s overall stats at the Europeans are as follows: 84 games, 42 wins, 3 draws, 38 losses, goal difference: 921-689.