SPORTS

Olympiakos after water polo title

The Olympiakos club’s water polo team will be seeking revenge in its upcoming European Championship League semifinal game against Croatia’s Jug Dubrovnik, the team that had deprived it of last year’s title. Defeated 8-7 in last year’s final, Olympiakos will now meet its rival in Budapest on Friday for a finals berth. Olympiakos coach Zoltan Kasas may be sitting pretty after his team’s clean sweep – league and cup – in domestic competition this year. But ahead of his team’s quest for glory abroad, he warns that his players will need to adjust to different playing conditions in Europe for their imminent encounter. «Referees [in European competition] judge differently. They don’t allow players to play with both hands and sink other players so that they can’t breathe,» Kasas said. «The tactics are going to be different,» he added. Kasas, one of the world’s most experienced coaches, is maintaining a low-key approach ahead of his team’s semifinal clash. «Jug is a very strong side. It possesses the world’s best forward, Mile Smodlaka, who may not be a very good swimmer but is terribly strong and who can’t be controlled in the center,» said Kasas. He expressed complaints about the refereeing at last year’s Final Four tournament. «Jug played at home before their fans, which made them tense. They didn’t play well. The refereeing was on their side, both in the semifinal with my team at the time, Becej, and in the final against Olympiakos,» Kasas claimed. «I think it [the refereeing] will be better this year. I think that the teams taking part in the Final Four – the other two are Hungary’s Honved and Italy’s Posillipo – are the four best teams. But on paper, the other three are superior to Olympiakos. Their ranks include Olympic champions, world champions, and European champions – players with greater international experience than ours.» Kasas underscored that the team would need to play with total discipline if it wanted to gain a place in the final. «In the few days that remain ahead of the match, I can’t boost the fitness of my players any more. The game will require tremendous discipline, spirit, concentration and calmness. We’ve got to avoid making too many mistakes and be careful with our passes in defense,» he said. «As the underdog, Olympiakos will simply have to play without anxiety. But my players have one major asset – they’re great fighters.» Kasas said that Olympiakos’s recent titanic best-of-five final series against Vouliagmeni for the Greek title – it went to five games – had its pros and cons. «It’s bad because the players got worn out just days ahead of the Final Four and it has not allowed us to work much on strategies. But on the other hand, it’s been good because we’ve prepared through tough games,» remarked Kasas, who noted that, besides the final, Olympiakos had not faced other tough domestic competition this season.