The semi-final line-up for the men’s U21 canoe polo world championships has been decided, with Germany, Poland, Spain and Italy set to fight for gold.

The biggest shock is the absence of France and Great Britain. The host nation never recovered from a slow start to the tournament and will now face New Zealand in a battle for fifth place, a repeat of 2018 when New Zealand triumphed to consign the French to sixth place.

Great Britain, winners of the past two world titles, made a strong start to the championships but struggled in the second round, and will now take on Belgium for seventh place.

Between them France and Great Britain have won the past four U21 world titles.

Germany, title winners in 2002 and 2010, will take on Poland in the first semi-final. Poland has never won an U21 world championship medal. Spain and Italy will fight out the second semi-final. The Spanish were world champions in 2004, a year in which Italy won silver, their best ever U21 result.

The Italians have also won four bronze medals, the most recent four years ago in Welland, Canada, when they defeated Poland in the battle for third place.

France needed to beat Germany on Friday to give themselves a chance of making the medal playoffs, but had no answer to the strength of the confident Germans, eventually losing 3-0.

German captain Julius Helm said his team are enjoying playing together.

“We are totally happy, we had so much fun in this game, lots of good chances for us and we had them in the defence,” Helm Said.

“We have a great team, we all play well together. There are still a few matches to go until the semi-finals, but we are still confident and we just want to win.”

Belgian captain Mats Mampaey said his team was happy to finish top ten after not playing in Welland in 2018.

“I’m really happy with where we are. Our goal was to come here and make top 12, and I think we have exceeded this already,” he said.

“Last few days we have really clicked, we are hungry for the games and making sure we want to win. We want to play polo, we want to play against the best in Europe and the world, so we will see.”

The Czech Republic has celebrated its return to the world championships with a play-off for 13th place. Captain Vit Rozsypal said it’s a good result for a sport that is rebuilding in his country.

“We should have played better, like we used to play in training and in the first group,” he said.

“Now we are in this (lower) group it seems like the motivation is gone, but we will regain it for tomorrow and the semi-finals of the classification.

“Our target is 13th place. It’s a bit of a shame because our group was a bit hard, so we wanted to get higher, but now the best we can do is 13th place, so we will go for it.”

The gold medal contest will take place on Saturday afternoon.

GB Denmark men polo St-Omer 2022

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