Brits finish seventh after nail-biting finale in Eindhoven
24th January 2012
The British Gas GBR Women’s Water Polo team finished their 2012 European Championships on a high, beating old rivals Germany to finish seventh overall.
Having improved with each performance in the group stage, the British women approached their clash with the Germans in high spirits.
And while their opponents held them to a 10-10 tie after four quarters of regular time, the British women proved too strong in overtime, ultimately sealing a 13-11 win.
Our team showed that we are now in the picture of European water polo
While they were competing at the European showpiece for the first time in 15 years, victory ensured the Brits their best result since finishing seventh out of seven teams in 1987.
And head coach Szilveszter Fekete insisted the teams' performances in Eindhoven had proved they could be a threat amongst the European elite.
"Our team showed that we are now in the picture of European water polo," said Fekete. "As I predicted after our first match, we didn’t finish last.
"We had good competitive games against such strong teams here. The first game was tough, but all the tournament we played good polo and everyone has commented on the progress we have made.
"We lost against Russia and Holland but we can improve and be even better and that's a good sign for the Olympics."
Centre forward Angie Winstanley-Smith added: “Our team is very pleased about its progress during this tournament. It proves that our hard work is paying off.
"We're really happy with the result but it's just the start of things to come. The team spirit has been phenominal and we're looking forward to training hard and getting better.
"Regarding the Olympics, it’s great for us to be there, particularly as women’s water polo is still a small sport in our country. We are all excited about that opportunity.
The Brits started strongly as Ciara Gibson-Byrne opened the scoring for the third time in four matches and Frankie Snell added a second shortly after.
We're pleased with our progress during this tournament - it proves our hard work is paying off.
But the Germans – who lost to Great Britain twice at last season’s Four Nations Invitational in Manchester – weren’t about to roll over and pulled level at the end of the first quarter.
Fiona McCann and Chloe Wilcox edged the Brits ahead again but Germany reacted fast, turning the match on its head to establish a 6-4 lead half way through the second quarter.
Gibson-Byrne was on hand to stop the rot with her second of the match and with the first half drawing to a close, Fran Clayton powered home an outside shot to restore parity once more at 6-6.
The Brits took control in the third period, recovering from conceding in the first minute to take a 9-7 lead through Snell, Gibson-Byrne and Lisa Gibson.
The British women had the finishing post in sight after Wilcox added her second to give them a three goal lead but the Germans put in a gusty display in the final quarter to draw level once more, 10-10 at the end of four quarters.
Winstanley-Smith made an immediate impact in the first of two three-minute periods of overtime, earning a penalty – which Snell duly put home.
Less than a minute later, Winstanley-Smith earned an exclusion in the pit and after receiving the ball, drove it into the corner for a two-goal advantage.
Snell capped an impressive individual performance by scoring her fourth of the match shortly after and the Brits could taste victory again, 13-10 ahead with three minutes to play.
They weren’t going to relinquish their three goal advantage for a second time and while Germany converted an outside shot with 30 seconds remaining, the Brits held on for a deserved victory.
British Gas GBR Women's Water Polo Team 13 - 11 Germany (2-2, 4-4, 3-1, 1-3) (3-0, 0-1)
GB goalscorers: Frankie Snell (4), Ciara Gibson-Byrne (3), Chloe Wilcox (2), Fiona McCann, Angie Winstanley-Smith, Lisa Gibson, Fran Clayton.