In Kazan two years ago, the Greek men’s water polo team won the bronze medal by beating Italy in the final match after penalties at the 16th FINA World Championships. This great result did not come as a great surprise to the international water polo family – the Hellenic team’s games were rich in emotions and spectacular solutions throughout the entire tournament. Today, Greece is among the top water polo teams internationally, and surely, they plan to finish among the best in Budapest this summer, too.
The Greek men’s national water polo team missed only three World Championships in the past - 1975 (Cali), 2009 (Rome), 2011 (Shanghai) -, so the 17th FINA World Championships will be their 14th presence at the International Swimming Federation’s premiere Event. Throughout their World Championships history, the Greeks collected two medals: the Hellenic squad clinched the bronze in Montreal in 2005 and as mentioned above, repeated the exact same result in Kazan ten years later. Therefore, the team is member of the elite circle of nine nations having at least one World Championships medal in men’s water polo.
A systematic revolutionary construction started in the 90s in Greek water polo – whose results appeared in the 2000s, such as three bronze medals in the World League tournaments (2004, 2006, 2016), or a fourth place in front of home crowds at the Athens Olympics back in 2004.
‘They have learnt to play water polo’ – explained a number of Hungarian experts of the discipline. Nowadays, no team can be sure of securing an easy win against the Greeks.
The key of this evolution is the work invested in the training and development of the young players and their method of the selection. Greek players have special physical education and capacities - now they have learnt the ways to bring out the best in these.
Since 1994, the Greek men’s team always made it to at least the quarter-finals in all the World Championships they took part in - from 2001 the 6th position was their lowest final ranking.
The main difference between the two ‘bronze marches’ ten years apart came from the bench.
When they reached the third position in Montreal, a foreign coach conducted the squad, the Italian legend himself, Alessandro Campagna (the current head coach of Italy). This Mediterranean collaboration proved successful, although the quarter-final must have been emotional for Coach Campagna: Greece beat Italy (13-9) and advanced to the semi-final. There the Hungarian team was better (6-7), but the bronze medal game once again brought success to the Greek: they won against Croatia (11-10). Georgios Afroudakis scored the last, decisive goal just 11 seconds before the end of the overtime.
In Kazan, Thodoris Vlachos was the head coach of the team, who assumed this important position in 2014. He is also the coach of the national number one club, Olympiakos Pireus since 2011 –and the latest successes of the Greek men’s team are strongly linked to this double-coaching. The national squad is based on this club, for example at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 10 players out of the 13 were from Olympiakos.
In Kazan, Greece played spectacularly, much to the joy of the World Championships’ local crowds.. In The beat both Italy (coached by Campagna) and the United States to 11-10 and Russia (15-11), qualifying automatically to the quarter-finals. Greece knocked Australia out after penalties and and dominated against Croatia in the semi-final. However, the game ended with a tie and the Croats won the shoot-out. Fate played an interesting game as the bronze medal match - against Italy – was decided by shoot out in the end, too. The Greeks triumphed in this ‘Russian roulette’ (4-2) and besides the World Championships bronze medal, they secured their participation at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with this win, too.
32-year-old Christos Afroudakis and 31-year-old Emmanouil Mylonakis are the two players who were members of both the 2005 and the 2015 bronze medal winning national teams of Greece.
Angelos Vlachopoulos and Ioannis Fountoulis are the main scorers on the current roster, but one of the strongest points of the Hellenic team is having a really diverse pool of players with good goal-scoring abilities. Today, Greece is among the top water polo teams internationally, and surely, they plan to finish among the best in Budapest this summer, too.
Greece at the FINA World Championships (best results):
2 silver medals (Montreal 2005, Kazan 2015)
4th place (Barcelona 2003)
6th place (Fukuoka 2001, Melbourne 2007, Barcelona 2013)