venerdì 22 maggio 2015

Final Six preview - Pro Recco

Starting Thursday May 28 the famous Bernat Picornell pool in Barcelona for the second consecutive year welcomes Europe's elite club teams for the final of the Champions League. The newly formatted three-day Final Six tournament will determine who grabs this year's European club championship. An exciting line-up of teams is gearing up for what is supposed to be the club season's climax. Waterpoloworld previews the event in the coming days by highlighting each team seperately. As both Croatian representatives are gearing up for a decisive domestic play-offs 5th game on Saturday we start off with 1 of the 2 preliminary phase group winners and favourites for the title: Pro Recco.

Few will disagree on the favourite role of Pro Recco for this year's Champions League title. And even the ones who are, only need to have a look at the results the Italian powerhouse recorded in the 10-round preliminary phase to change their opinion. Just twice (8-9 win over Brescia and 11-9 vs. ZF-Eger) did an opponent managed to keep the goal difference in the final score below three goals. The prelims campaign futhermore featured 4-12 (ZF-Eger) and 5-12 (Radnicki) blowout victories while reigning European champions Barceloneta, also in group A, got hammered 7-15 and 17-7 in both match-ups with Recco. And even without stars like Aleksandar Ivovic, Filip Filipovic and Maro Jokovic the squad lived up to the expectations in Italy by once more defending their national champion status clinching a 10th straight Italian title after beating Brescia in the play-offs finals.

As undefeated winners of group A Pro Recco directly qualified for the semifinals in which they'll await the winner of the quarterfinal match-up between hosts Barceloneta and one of the other title favourites: Szolnok, winners of group B. In any case the Italians will enjoy one more day of rest compared to the semifinal opponent although last year's edition saw quaterfinalists Barceloneta eliminating then group winners Primorje in the semis on their way to the title.

Pro Recco was regarded favourite last year coming into the inaugural Final Six, also in Barcelona, before things quickly turned into a dissapointment as a young Partizan squad eliminated the Italians in a quarterfinal penalty shootout whereafter Brescia was responsible for a 6th and last place finish. This year however things are likely to be different. The 2012 Euro league winners have boosted their roster which included welcoming back Serbians Andrija Prlainovic and centre-forward Dusko Pijetlovic. They were part of the team that dominated the Euro league season in 2012 ultimately claiming the trophy at the Final Four in Oradea, Romania and came back to repeat that feature.

Pro Recco (ITA)
Founded: 1913
Palmares include:
- 29 national championships
- 10 Italian cups
- 7 Euro League / Champions League titles

Who to watch: 
Who not?! The All-Star like roster of the Italian champion features world-class names such as Aleksandar Ivovic (MNE), Filip Filipovic (SRB), Maro Jokovic (CRO) and of course veteran goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti (ITA). 

Honourable mention: Andrea Fondelli who's having a break-through year or rather continues to take the big steps from being an absolute national standout as junior to the same role as senior.

Aleksandar Ivovic (pictured left) and 2014 world and European player of the year Filip Filipovic are 2 of the players ready to shine at the Final Six after avoiding a grueling season by being left off Recco's domestic team roster for this season due to a limit on the use of foreign players (3), imposed by Italian Swimming Federation FIN.

Pics by: Davide Pambianchi.

Final Six schedule

Thursday, 28 May


18.00: ZF-Eger (HUN) vs. Jug CO Dubrovnik (CRO) - P1
19.30: C.N. Atletic-Barceloneta (ESP) vs. Szolnoki VSK (HUN) - P2

Friday, 29 May

Semifinals + 5th/6th place

16.30: Loser P1 vs. Loser P2 - 5th/6th place

18.00: Winner P1 vs. Primorje EB Rijeka (CRO) - Semifinal 1
19.30: Winner P2 vs. Pro Recco (ITA) - Semifinal 2

Saturday, 30 May

18.00: Loser SF1 vs. Loser SF2 - 3rd/4th place
19.30: Winner SF1 vs. Winner SF2 - Final

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

Final Six tickets available here.

Previous Champions Cup / Champions League / Euroleague / Champions League winners:

1964: Partizan (YUG)
1965: Pro Recco (ITA)
1966: Partizan (YUG)
1967: Partizan (YUG)
1968: HAVK Mladost (YUG)
1969: HAVK Mladost (YUG)
1970: HAVK Mladost (YUG)
1971: Partizan (YUG)
1972: HAVK Mladost (YUG)
1973: Orvosegyetem (HUN)
1974: MGU Moscow (USSR)
1975: Partizan (YUG)
1976: Partizan (YUG)
1977: CSKA Moscow (USSR)
1978: Canottieri Napoli (ITA)
1979: Orvosegyetem (HUN)
1980: Vasas (HUN)
1981: Jug Dubrovnik (YUG)
1982: C.N. Barcelona (ESP)
1983: Wasserfreunde Spandau (GDR)
1984: Pro Recco (ITA)
1985: Vasas (HUN)
1986: Wasserfreunde Spandau (GDR)
1987: Wasserfreunde Spandau (GDR)
1988: Pescara (ITA)
1989: Wasserfreunde Spandau (GDR)
1990: HAVK Mladost (YUG)
1991: HAVK Mladost (YUG)
1992: Jadran Split (CRO)
1993: Jadran Split (CRO)
1994: Újpest (HUN)
1995: C.N. Catalunya (ESP)
1996: HAVK Mladost (CRO)
1997: Posillipo (ITA)
1998: Posillpo (ITA)
1999: POŠK Split
2000: Bečej (SFR)
2001: Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)
2002: Olympiacos (GRE)
2003: Pro Recco (ITA)
2004: Honvéd (HUN)
2005: Posillipo (ITA)
2006: Jug Dubrovnik (CRO)
2007: Pro Recco (ITA)
2008: Pro Recco (ITA)
2009: Primorac Kotor (MNE)
2010: Pro Recco (ITA
2011: Partizan (SRB)
2012: Pro Recco (ITA)
2013: Crvena zvezda / Red Star (SRB)
2014: C.N. Atletic-Barceloneta (ESP)


Only on three occasions has the final of the tournament involved two teams from the same country:

- 1971 Yugoslavia: Partizan vs HAVK Mladost 4–4
- 1993 Croatia: Jadran Split vs HAVK Mladost 13–12 (7–8, 6–4)
- 1998 Italy: Posillipo vs Pescara 8–6

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