After a 21-year dry spell, the Hungarian men’s water polo team has once again won the European Championship in an intense match that will go down in the history books.
In a battle with Spain that went down to the wire, the match ended in 9-9 draw during regular play time, with shootouts then deciding the game (14-13). Following the victory, the home team and their fans were sent into seventh heaven, filling the arena ecstatic cheering.
For Hungary, the hero of the match was 22-year-old goalkeeper Soma Vogel, who did not play a single minute in the final and only replaced Viktor Nagy for the last two penalty shots.
The match didn’t only hand Hungary the European gold but also means Hungary automatically qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“It is a fantastic thing to see the sparkle in their eyes. The [current team’s] two Olympic champions, Dénes Varga and Norbert Hosnyánszky, only lacked this gold for their collection, while this victory will give a huge boost to the careers of the younger generation,” coach Tamás Märcz, himself an Olympic champion in Sydney in 2000, said after the match.
Hungary is generally considered to have produced some of the best water polo teams in history, and with this victory, the country extends its lead in the overall medal count by winning its 13th title.
The Spanish team had to console themselves with silver, but their women’s team did manage a win, beating Russia 13-12 in a closely fought battle.
Title image: Hungarian water polo team celebrates European Championship win on January 26 in Budapest (MTI/Zsolt Szigetvári)