SPORTS

A medal for water polo?

The national water polo team will face its first major commitment with a newly appointed coach at the helm, Italian Sandro Campagna, at the European Championships which begin today in Slovenia. Until recently, Campagna headed Italy’s national side. Late last year, Greece’s players had demanded the departure of a previous national team coach, Koulis Iosiphidis, for alleged lack of commitment. Despite acquitting itself well in this competition over the past decade, Greece has yet to win a medal. The national team came close in 1999 when it ended fourth, which ranks as its best performance to date. Considering the high standard of European water polo, a medal placing will not be easy. Powerhouses with great traditions behind them such as Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Italy, Spain and Croatia should provide stiff competition. Placings among the top eight will be determined by fine detail. The odd mishap by favorites could easily sink their medal hopes and relegate them to battles for lower-end final placings, between ninth and 12th. Besides the more obvious favorites, outsiders will also be keen to prove their worth, as was recently clearly demonstrated by Greece’s loss against Romania in a qualifying game. Greece will be thrown into the deep end in its very first game, against Italy today. The Italians may have stopped raking in one title after another, as they had done a decade earlier, but are always among the top contenders. As former coach of Italy, Greece’s newly appointed coach, Campagna, knows the national side’s opponent in today’s opening game well. Campagna possesses insight into the Italian squad’s strengths and weaknesses, which could offer that vital edge needed for victory. Greece, drawn in Group B, will also face Croatia, Germany, Slovenia and Spain in first-round games, which divides the competition’s 12 finalists into two groups of six. Each group’s top four sides qualify for knock-out quarterfinals. The two fifth-placed sides will battle for ninth and 10th places, while the last-placed sides will clash to avoid the competition’s bottom spot. In other Group B games today, Croatia will play Germany, and Spain meets Slovenia. In Group A, Serbia will face Romania, Slovakia will meet the Netherlands, and Russia plays Hungary.