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Great Britain’s women qualify for the 2024 European Championships

Great Britain’s senior women’s water polo team have qualified for the 2024 European Championships in Israel after topping their qualification group.

They won all three of their matches in Portugal to book their place at the Championships in Netanya and become the first British side to compete at Europe’s top table since 2014.

Both Great Britain’s women’s and men’s sides competed in a European Qualification Tournament from 23-25 July with the women’s side impressing to secure their spot at the Championships in January.

Led by head coach Nick Buller, and his assistant Peggy Etiebet, GB’s women defeated Germany 13-5, Portugal 14-12 and Finland 27-2 with a string of strong performances in Rio Maior.

They begun their campaign with an important victory against a Germany side who finished tenth at last year’s European Championships.

Team GB started on the front-foot, and five goals in the first eleven minutes from Lily Turner helped put themselves into a commanding 8-1 lead at the halfway mark.

They managed the game expertly from there on out with Izzy Howe (three), Katy Cutler (two), Kathy Rodgers, Annie Clapperton and Amelia Peters all getting on the scoresheet in the victory.

Inspirational performance

Hosts Portugal provided an even tougher test with Great Britain coming out on top in a back and forth contest.

GB missed some early chances but they managed to fight their way into a 5-4 lead at the turnaround thanks to Toula Falvey’s strike with just one second to go in the second period.

Portugal kept on responding but the British team kept their focus to hold on to their lead with Turner’s goal just 19 seconds from time giving them the vital two-goal margin they needed to see the game out.

Otter’s Cutler was in fine form in attack with four goals. Turner got herself another hat-trick, whilst Clapperton added two more to Britain’s total.

Rosie Huck, Peters, Howe and Rodgers also got on the board in a magnificent team display.

Despite having already qualified, Great Britain’s women ensured they completed their campaign with a  100% record thanks to a dominant 26-2 victory against Finland.

Nine British players were amongst the goals in the win with Mhairi Nurthen and Falvey grabbing six each.

There were also hat-tricks for Brooke Tafazolli and Niamh Moloney with Vicki Hawkins, Peters, Huck and Cutler all scoring twice. Clapperton also hit the net to complete the scoring.

Team Manager and Swim England’s Water Polo Talent and Inclusion Officer Rose Younger was delighted with the team’s performance out in Portugal.

She said: “I’m delighted with the results both from the senior women’s programme’s perspective and the inspiring effect it will have for the age group athletes who will be able to see, for the first time in ten years, a real elite senior pathway that they can to aspire to join.

“The team really capitalised on the learning and preparation from the pre-qualification tournament in Szentes.

“GB ladies came out very strong against Germany and dominated from the outset were able to maintain their form against Portugal which was a much more challenging match.

“We kept fighting and the team maintained their composure throughout a nail biting contest which drew the best from both teams.

“There was strong competition for places for the qualifiers and we look forward to working with the squad over the next six months ahead of the Championships in Israel in January.”

‘A great experience’

The men’s side gained valuable experience in a tough qualification group but unfortunately missed out on qualifying for next year’s tournament.

Great Britain’s men suffered three defeats in what was an incredibly strong group where they faced three sides who regularly qualify for the finals.

They opened up their campaign against double Olympic Champions Serbia where they fell to a 28-0 defeat against world-class opposition.

Hosts Turkey then defeated Great Britain 19-2 where Jordan Elliot and John Pratt got their names on the scoresheet.

In their final match, they caused Slovakia a lot more problems in a performance that showed the British side were learning from the experience.

In a 17-7 defeat, Elliot and Pratt were once again amongst the goals with Kameron Powell and four from Dan Paddon completing GB’s scoring.

Head coach Nick Hume believes the experience of the competition will benefit the team in the future.

He told LEN: “We came here for the experience. It was a big step up for us but what we were proud of was that we adapted and we learnt from the experience.

“When you play these top teams it can be intimidating to begin with but the boys hung in there, they grew against Turkey and the played more confidently against Slovakia and that’s what playing at this level does to you.

“We didn’t roll over, we didn’t give in and kept on fighting. It’s been great experience to be here.”

The date of the draw for the 2024 European Water Polo Championships will be announced soon.