The run up to the championships looked totally different with England being many peoples favourite to once more topple the Italians on home soil. The 6 man squad had seen some sparkling results, after they had arrived at the venue, a week prior to official practice. Weights were coming in at 20-45kgs and things seemed as though the lads had developed a great game-plan. However, once the official practice days got underway things started to change. An air of caution started to develop and seep from the English management as areas on the match length began to throw up some lesser results for them, while Italy seemed to be gaining strength. Groundbaits, rigs and feeding had seemingly been sorted, but there was undoubtadely something missing, hence the cautionary change!

Other teams where also now beginning to side with Italy as they sensed something was in the air... or groundbait, as special attention was given to masking certain aspects of their feed. It was if the script had already been written and while England still retained many peoples respect for a podium slot, it was the home side who were looking increasingly dominant.
Brollies were a visible feature of the championships, for nearly everyone, due to the oppressive and humid heat.Brollies were a visible feature of the championships, for nearly everyone, due to the oppressive and humid heat.
Day one came and went with the almost expected result... Italy 9pts, Holland 11pts, Hungary 15pts, Belgium 16pts and England 20pts. Blimey, no one saw that one! England were once more on the back foot and swimming against the current with four teams ahead of them. Never mind, they've been there, done that and got the t-shirt' so they're bound to come back on day two, aren't they?

One sad note of the day was that Stevie Gardener was made reserve. As the management said, it was one of the most difficult decisions to make, but everyone in the squad had given 200% and there was little between all of them. Let's face it, if you had a choice of any English angler to run your section, which one would you grab?
Large crowds had begun to form before the off behind some of England's anglers, Will Raison in particular.Large crowds had begun to form before the off behind some of England's anglers, Will Raison in particular.
Twenty points for the first day was not that bad, with the 5-man attack posting 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6pts. A good score under most circumstances, but Ostellato was not just any old venue. It was apparent that there was something being done by the other teams which England hadn't cottoned onto and is still the subject of some debate at present. We hope to bring you more on this later.

But what of the other teams and how they were shaping up. Jan Van Schendel's men were certainly the surprise package of day one. They had produced a stunning section win in all but one section, and you had to feel sorry for their poor guy who posted 7pts, not that bad a score really. With the Italians running riot, it looked as though it would be Holland who were going to be the only team capable of mounting any serious challenge, for what was looking increasingly like 'Italian Gold!'. But Hungary and Belgium were close on their heels and any slip-up by the Netherlander's would be severely punished.

Bring out the shark gear!
Of the teams behind fifth place, one stood out by a mile... South Africa! You have to admire this tiny match-fishing nations resolve to come to grips with a venue containing a species totally alien to the African sport of fishing. Carp, sharks no problem, but skimmers and bream! Their score of 29pts was exceptional, and it wasn't all carp they caught, although the odd one or two did find their way into their nets. There was one that got away from Adrian van der Heever, estimated at over 10kgs. It would have placed him in top position after day one on weight! Instead, all he had to show for it was a damaged net from trying to haul the monster up the steep bank and a section win, so not too bad then! Adrian's not sized-challenged, so was more than capable of lifting the 'lump' out, unfortunately his landing net wasn't! Perhaps he will be bringing some shark gear next time!

Russia, as in Holland during the 2009 Championships, had shown they were no push-over when it came to fishing for skimmers and bream. Their first days total of 28pts, just eight away from England, placed them in an ideal position to take advantage of any slip-ups on day two. Another previous eastern-bloc country, Romania, also posted a more than respectable score, edging out Wales for eigth position.
Many teams used floats with long sight tips to cut through surface tow/drag and also see lift bites more clearly.Many teams used floats with long sight tips to cut through surface tow/drag and also see lift bites more clearly.
Our Euro Champs falter
But what of the current European Champions, France. They had come with high-hopes after their victory in Opole, but had they come with any creditable plan, other than their 'small-fish' approach? Their posting of 43 points for 14th place on the first day said it all. This was not in their comfort-zone, more like their old-zone! What confuses me is how can they mistake the nature of the event and not draw distinction between 'rock-hard' in Poland, and a 'skimmer-fest' in Italy! Surely they had done some homework on the venue and species? No doubt many questions will be raised back home, in the cold light of day, as to why this senario was playing out. There will also probably be the odd 'poke' at why someone like Diego da Silva was not re-approached and tempted back into the fold! It's not our place to question the French selection, but it's hard for us, and others, to see where the merit lay in selecting some anglers with a non-skimmer background!

The numbers game
The fish count for day one proved most interesting when analysed more closely. Out of the top five teams it was Holland that registered the fewest fish (259) with England just in front of them with 274 fish. The Hungarian's and Belgian's both exceeded Italy's count and it pointed to perhaps their reliance on more smaller fish. I'm aware of the Hungarian's plan to target the smaller fish first, then move later to the larger fish, basically a catch-all policy similare to Italy's. This policy was highlighted in section A, where Szilard Magyar was on peg 19 and weighed in 13,460kgs for second place, just 430 grams away from section winner Jo Adriola of Holland. Szilard's recorded count of 75 fish to Jo's 52 explained it all. In fact it was the highest fish count as far down as 7th position, where Serbia's Predrag Vesligaj recorded just two more fish! The Belgian's would have had a similar approach, but it was Italy's knowledge of the venue which placed their attack around better quality fish.

A winning strategy?
One thing was starting to develop after the day's results, the importance of feed and feeding patterns. As teams, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Hungary had obviously picked up on something relating to this subject and it must be remembered that all of them had seen, and been present on, previous competitions on the venue, so had taken away much information. That's not to say England are using that as an excuse. They are more than capable of working these things out on there own, as in previous years. It must also be recognised that England are at some disadvantage competing in Europe, both from a travelling, venue and financial point-of-view. I acknowledge that there are other teams in a similar situation, but much is expected from England, and it's unreasonable to expect them to maintain a 100% record every year! This would be the first time since 1995, in Finland, that they've returned home without any medal, individual or team, laying in the chest!

We have a special video clip below, taken at the start of Thursday's practice session, of Umberto Ballabeni's initial feeding period... 10 minutes as officially prescribed. We must state that we cannot be certain that this was the feeding method or quantities used by all the Italians during the 2 day event, but it lends food for thought as to their strategy regarding this important 10 minutes, something which Steve Gardener rates as being perhaps the single most important part of each days match. If you look carefully at the clip, you will first see that Umberto has his 13m of pole positioned further back than normal for the first part of balling-in. I would assess the pole's butt to be around half a metre behind the front part of his box. Which is where he's holding the butt of his pole as he cups-in each time! The camera was set as constant record, so we can see the actual time spent feeding. What is very interesting is the number of 'cupping' runs he made...23, and even more interesting was where he placed them. We have analysed the clip at great length, in a much larger viewing format and can be quite certain that Umberto did not drop the feed balls all in the same spot, or indeed directly past his main 14 ball barrage. We have included a small diagram above, to show the positions where Umberto placed his feed... half a metre past and within a half metre to the right. The time taken to accomplish this totalled just over 7.5 minutes. This feeding procedure seemed so precise, we can only assume that this was in some way pretty near the mark for a main Italian feeding strategy. We know that on the last day of competition, Andrea Fini threw in 20 balls and cupped in 16, we assume at the similar distances to Umberto's. What is now known, is that all the Italians did not feed EXACTLY the same, but no doubt used this as only as a basic plan, altering it slightly depending on their own particular areas. You must also remember that Andrea also drew the same peg the Falsini had fished the day before! How's that for a lucky break!


There was one particular aspect of the feeding process that remains somewhat unclear. During the initial balling-in and feed period, it was observed that the Italians in particular, were cupping in large quantities of something very heavy in the pole cups, judging by the bends on some of their poles! It seems this may have been a hard and heavy leam mix, containing bloodworm or joker feed...called Pongo, and not Pogo as reported in one of the English papers! It's aim was specifically to breakdown over a long period, thereby avoiding the need for any early top-up's. This involves absorbing as much water into damp leam as possible, almost to the point of clay-consistency, then adding loads of grey leam (or similar in the case of the Italians) until you achieved what can only be described as a 'near-concrete' cannonball effect! We are looking further into this and hope to bring you more information on it as soon as possible. If any of our members can shed more light on this subject (especially if you are Italian), I would be pleased to hear from you by contacting me on

Not to be missed!
Overall, much can be learnt from the first days figures and the especially the post-match interviews, especially Gabba's as it seems slightly at odds with the information received so far. We shall go into this particular aspect of the day later in our coverage as we'll have a full exclusive video interview with England's Steve Gardener (also 'minimised' on our not-to-be-missed DVD), who actually covered Szilard's section on the first day and was able to watch the Italy's Jacopo Falsini, before and after his initial feeding period.

Steve will also answer questions on his omission from the first day's match and give his opinion on the rigs used by the Italians, Hungarians and England. We shall also cover the crucial subject of feeding; what was fed, how much and the even more critical phase of topping-up, which he feels, with hindsight, was possibly England's achilles heel!

Also coming up... some full-length video footage of balling-in by Alain Dewimille and Dieter Freiderichs... catching (or losing) some of the massive carp on this fantastic venue. So watch out for them in our Special Video Gallery as we try to upload these and others as quickly as possible!

If this championship proved one thing above all others, it was that the acknowledged best five teams in the world ALL finished within the top five places! Not necessarily in the order many of us would have wished for though! With three and four section winners respectively, both Italy and Holland looked, on the day, to have sewn up the individual podium positions.

We'll have another feature later, on the final days outcome, with picture and video galleries being added as they are completed, a lengthy process for this year!