Germany and France win Canoe Polo Worlds
2008 and 2010 world champions, 2009 and 2011 European champions, winners of the 2009 World Games, Great-Britain reigned over the Canoe Polo world for five years before handing over their crown to Germany in Poznan in 2012. Sunday’s final was the occasion for them to claim their title back. The Germans, however, did not see the matter in the same light and quickly showed they were not ready to give up their title yet, scoring early in the game and settling their well-proven controlling tactics as soon as they could. The huge crowd of Thury-Harcourt, disappointed to not cheer for their home team in the final, did their best to support the British and help them face the repeated German offensives but with no luck.
This team, built on the best defence in the world was way too strong, way too fast, way too dynamic, and inflicted a severe 5-1 to their opponents. “It feels so great especially because we played Great-Britain last year in the European Championships final and it was very tight”, exulted German captain Elena Gilles. “Today was a fun game for us. We played very free here. All our players have quite the same level, so everyone can play in the same way. These world championships were fantastic; the atmosphere is like nowhere else”. Kathryn Moffitt, captain of Great Britain, acknowledged German superiority and is already looking towards the next World Championships that will take place in 2016 in Liverpool: “It feels very good to be second bests in the world. Germany were a better team today, we have to accept it. We need more teamwork and a little bit more strength when attacking.”
Already third in 2008 and 2010, the French women senior team collect a new bronze medal against New Zealand but will regret missing their semi-final against GB. “It’s a nice bronze medal”, said French captain Valérie Sibioude. “We fought hard for it, but it’s not what we aimed for. We had everything we needed to reach the final and we failed. In semi-finals against the British, we had three counterattacks, and we missed all of them. Maybe we were too nervous. We had no choice but to win this last game”.
The German curse goes on
Looking at Sunday morning’s semi-finals, one could hope to see an unprecedented world championships final between Spain and Italy, but France and Germany reminded them that more work and experience were needed to close the gap and play for the gold medal. Nevertheless, in the game for the third place that preceded the big final, Spain found the resources in the overtime to overthrow Italy and offer their fans their first Men senior world medal, to the great delight of the captain Mario Perez Lopez: “The two teams were equal. We worked a lot to win. Italy could have won but we had the luck that some teams need to make the difference when it counts. Last year we won the first international medal for Spain at the European Championships and we worked a lot to improve and grab one here at the world level”.
The crowd of Thury-Harcourt sang all week long but were never as loud as Sunday afternoon, when France entered the main field to contest the men senior world title to Germany. The latter were desperate to ward off the bad spell that has been depriving them of the gold medal, while the French were committed to offer to their fans a spectacular close to the championships.
Germany were the first to score in a very tight and balanced first half, but were soon caught up by their opponents who absolutely wanted to avoid letting the Germans settle their control game. Straight after the pause, the 2013 world games winners took the lead again, but received a direct response from the emblematic Francois Barbey, pillar of the French team. It took a yellow card given to Robin Heile for foul play that finally unlocked the game. Franck Besson took advantage of the French numerical superiority to score at three minutes from the end, before urging his teammates to block the gates.
Already second in 2010 and 2012, the Germans had to settle for the silver medal one more time. German captain Jonas Vieren had a hard time accepting his fate: “I feel pretty angry, we could have won the game, we were close to win it and we got this yellow card that made the difference. That’s sport, it happens, there is nothing we can do. I hope one day we’ll win this world title that has eluded us so far”.
Over the crowd’s eruption, Maxime Gohier dedicated his third world champion title to his teammates Martin Brodoux and François Barbey, who are now retiring, and to the audience: “It’s my third world champion title but it’s definitely the most beautiful. Being able to offer this gold medal to our supporters, who came en masse all week long, is an indescribable feeling. All finals are special games, it was very tight. Even if we beat them 5-2 in the group match, we stayed focused. I think both teams were very tired, but when you get the support of such a crowd, you don’t think about anything else, you just play to win. Today the teams were very close but the Germans did not pull out anything to bring it home”.
In 2016 the ICF Canoe Polo World Championships will move to Liverpool, Great-Britain.