Germany remain favourites to retain their ICF canoe polo men’s world crown this weekend, but the chasing pack is closing in after a day of strong results at St-Omer in France.

The Germans have not lost a game all week, and have rarely looked troubled on their way to a possible second title. But Spain also remain unbeaten, and after posting a draw against Poland in their opening game, host nation France has also run into form.

The French were comfortable 7-0 winners over New Zealand on Friday, and captain David Linet said his team is hoping to take advantage of the capacity crowd expected in St-Omer this weekend for the finals.

“It’s a good pressure for us,” he said.

“We can see from the games that all the players on the team are enjoying having all these people in the crowd. It’s not the weekend yet so I think it will get a lot busier.

“We improve after each game, so we will see but we are happy here and we’ll continue like this.”

Spain were particularly impressive in a 4-0 defeat of Denmark, who had been considered one of the pre-event favourites, while Italy’s only blemish so far has been a 1-1 draw with Great Britain.

Of the remaining teams, Netherlands remains an outside chance for a semi-final berth after drawing 4-4 with Poland.

“We know Poland is a good opponent and having a good tournament. We were in a rush in the beginning and shooting too much,” captain Mats Pel said.

“Nothing is lost yet, but next games we need to be up. We need to have a good talk with the team, and see what was going well and what we have to work on, and lets get that feedback into our game.

“Winning a medal here would be a good achievement for us, for sure.”

By comparison with most other canoe polo nations in Europe, Denmark is tiny. Captain Erik Malmborg said his team understands it will always struggle to take on the best teams, but is still hoping to finish 13th in St-Omer.

Their hopes suffered a setback with a two-all draw against Lithuania.

“We’re not too happy with that, we were hoping for a win, but we think with a draw we can still get to the top of the group,” Malmborg said.

“Realistically we were hoping to get higher in the first group, but they are tough groups and we are the bottom-ranked team. These are the games we were expecting to be in. We are fighting for 13th position, and I think we are a team that could be in that range.

“If we compare ourselves to some of these other countries we are really small. We are basically four clubs playing and in the national teams we are two clubs, so it’s a small selection.

“We have a lot of youth players coming up, but it will be a few years before they pickup. We are trying, but the way we see the rest of Europe they are growing faster than Sweden, but it is growing in Sweden for sure.”

The men’s finals will be held on Sunday.

Pics by Balint Vekassy

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