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Hungarian legends about the draw of the water polo tournaments of the FINA World Championships

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The draw of the water polo tournaments of the 2017 FINA World Championships was held last Friday, so everyone has had the time to think of their chances in the group stage. The Hungarian men’s team will play against France, Australia and Italy in Group B, the women’s team will play against Japan, France and the Netherlands in Group C. Hungarian legends, former world-class players have their say on the possible outcome of the group matches.

Tamás Faragó won the gold medal with the Hungarian men’s national team at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. He is a two-time European champion as well, and he was very successful at the FINA World Championships: he won gold in 1973 in Belgrade, and silver in 1975 in Cali as well as in 1978 in West Berlin. The current head coach of the Hungarian youth national teams is of the opinion that the group stage is not that important in such an event.

”The draw is like a guide, but the result of that is all the same. The world championships begins with the quarter final, so every team has to focus on that. Of course there are easier and less easier groups, but I think that is the point.”

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Faragó is convinced the Hungarian men’s team has a more difficult task, because they will play against two very strong rivals, Italy and Australia.

”I think the women’s team will achieve a good result. The winner of the match Hungary-Netherlands will finish first in the group, but the girls will have to monitor the results of the other groups as well.”

Attila Bárány has a similar opinion about the group stage. Former junior European champion water polo player, who won the LEN Champions League with Domino-BHSE in 2004, is sure the quarter final match will be decisive for both the men’s and the women’s team.

”It is hard to say how the ideal draw looks like. In the past there were some examples when we had three easy rivals in the group, but we still lost in the first really important match, at other times we started a couple of major tournaments against one or two strong teams, and the consequence was the same. If I could choose I would wish a rather strong group, and at the 2017 World Championships we will have difficult matches both in the men’s and the women’s tournament, so my wish has been fulfilled.” – said Attila Bárány, executive chairman of three-time Hungarian champion Eger. 

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1994 world champion Katalin Rédei is convinced the best way to achieve a good result is to beat everyone. 

”In my opinion it is better to qualify from a difficult group to the knock-out stage. It is never easy to start a world championships, but it is easier to beat a big rival in the beginning of such an event, and furthermore, a victory like that can have a positive effect on the further matches.” – former player of Vasas and BVSC said.

”In the men’s tournament the strongest rival of the Hungarian team will be Italy, but the Australians can be dangerous as well. In the women’s tournament I am curious how the Dutch will perform after the shocking year of 2016 when they failed to qualify for the Olympic tournament. I do not know whether it would be good to qualify directly for the quarter final as group winner or not. These teams are very strong physically, so it is no problem for them to play a lot of matches. On the other hand to finish first in the group would be great for the team mentally.”

Bulcsú Székely thinks it makes no sense to speak about easy and difficult groups. Olympic and two-time European champion former player stresses there are no easy rivals any more, so the Hungarians have to prepare for all matches.

”No room for doubt, the quarter final will be the most important match, but I expect a war to the death in the group stage as well. It will be the first major tournament under the direction of new head coach of the Hungarian men’s national team Tamás Märcz, and since it will happen in front of a home crowd, he and the players will have to play under pressure.” – said Székely.

”I am sure there are no easy matches any more, even the French can be dangerous. I remind you of the fact that they qualified for the Rio Olympics, and they defeated Croatia. Dénes Kemény said once that it is much easier to go slow during a match when you lead comfortably than to change gear when you are in trouble.”

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Regarding the Italian team Székely added Tamás Märcz knows them very well since he played for many years in Italy, so he will prepare the Hungarians well against them.

”The women’s tournament will be even more balanced. There will be some matches with big goal differences, but it is unpredictable what will happen anyway. Knowing that Hungarian head coach Attila Bíró is doing a good job and the team has been improving very well, I am really optimistic.”