Stage is set in Rijeka for spectacular Euro Cup Final Four

Photo: Alexandra Ratković

The climax to a stunning Euro Cup season is upon us as the 2024 men’s Euro Cup champions will be crowned this weekend in Rijeka. Two Croatian sides will be vying to finish on top of the podium – Jug and Primorje, while Spanish giants Sabadell and German powerhouses Spandau complete the line-up.

Men’s Euro Cup Final Four Fixtures
Semi-Finals, Friday 17th May 2024
(Local times shown)
17:45 Astralpool CN Sabadell (ESP) v Jug Adriatic Osiguranje (CRO)
20:00 Primorje Erste Bank (CRO) v Spandau 04 Berlin (GER)

Photo: Alexandra Ratković

After 136 thrilling games, there are just four more to go in this season’s Euro Cup, as Primorje, Sabadell, Spandau and Jug meet in Rijeka to decide this year’s winners.

Primorje are the only team remaining from the Euro Cup group stage, as the other three all dropped down from the Champions League and rejuvenated their seasons by marching into the Euro Cup Final Four.

Montenegro star Darko Brguljan helped steer Primorje to the top of their group and then past two Champions League sides – Dinamo Tbilisi in the Eight Finals and Vouliagmeni in the Quarter Finals – and is excited about the challenges ahead.

“This is it, the final tournament, and a European trophy is at stake,” Brguljan said at his team’s press conference earlier this week.

“It’s clear what a victory against Spandau will bring us – one step closer – but all we’re thinking about is that first game on Friday.

“The other three teams have come from the Champions League, so if we look at it from that angle, for sure they may have something more than us, but we are here and are playing in Rijeka.”

Photo: Irakli Tkemaladze

This season in Europe, Primorje’s home pool has proven to be a fortress, as they’ve won eight from eight there, including that epic comeback in the second-leg of the Quarter Finals against Vouliagmeni.

Needing to overturn a five-goal deficit from the first-leg, Primorje sent shockwaves around the continent after winning 15-9 in front of their jubilant fans.

Brguljan’s team-mate Niko Cubranic is equally excited about contesting the Final Four in Rijeka and hopes his side can build on that spectacular Quarter Final second-leg performance.

“I think we’ve showed in our recent Euro Cup games that we can play against possibly stronger teams, especially in the last game against Vouliagmeni, which ended so miraculously,” said Cubranic. 

“The atmosphere in and around the team is fantastic right now and we are ready for the game against Spandau to begin.

“We have our sights set on them, they are a fantastic team, but the Final Four is called that for a reason – the four best teams – so there are no longer any bad teams in the competition.”

Photo: Irakli Tkemaladze

Primorje also have fairly recent experience of playing in European finals, after finishing runners-up in the 2012 and 2015 Champions League.

Spandau, meanwhile, are looking to win their first European title since lifting the European Cup (now Champions League) trophy in 1989 and are aiming to become the first German team to triumph in the Euro Cup.

Their route to the Final Four saw them knock two Italian teams out – Ortigia in the Eight Finals and Savona in the Quarter Finals.

Both encounters proved tricky, but Spandau edged both, with two narrow away wins proving decisive.

The Germans will also look to carry on their prolific form from the perimeter, as players like Marin Tomasovic have been firing them in for fun from distance in recent rounds. 

Photo: Mirko Seifert

This weekend’s other semi-final sees 2022 Euro Cup winners Sabadell take on four-time Champions League holders Jug.

Spanish Sabadell star Fran Valera is fully focused on the task ahead and told European Aquatics, “We are really excited to play in the Final Four.

“We play against Jug, who are probably the best team in this final round, so we know that it will be a tough game, but we are training to do our best.”

En route to the showpiece event, Jug were handed a difficult task in the Eight Finals – 2023 winners Vasas – but the Croatians rose to the challenge and triumphed 21-19 on aggregate.

In the Quarter Finals, a 15-9 home win in the first-leg against Crvena Zvezda put them firmly in control of the tie and they completed the job in Serbia with another victory (10-14).

Photo: Jug Adriatic Osiguranje

Sabadell’s passage to the Final Four saw them face their most tricky encounter in the Quarter Finals, against Steau Bucharest, a team they’d already beaten twice in the Champions League Group Stage.

After brushing French side Tourcoing aside in the Eight Finals (33-23 on aggregate), Sabadell came up against the Romanians once more.

Both legs were close affairs, but Sabadell narrowly won each game by one – 5-6 in Bucharest and 7-6 at home – to book their ticket to the Euro Cup Final Four.

This weekend in Rijeka, the Spaniards will look to emulate their 2022 heroics, which saw them lift the Euro Cup after an 18-14 aggregate win against Telimar Palermo in the final.

You can watch all the Men’s Euro Cup water polo Final Four action on the European Aquatics YouTube channel and check out all the results by clicking here.

Photo: Víctor Castillo