The favourites are all through to the semi-final stage of the canoe polo competition at the 2022 The World Games in Birmingham, with several mouth-watering match-ups in store for the final day of competition.

Germany and Italy will face off in both the men’s and women’s competition, the French men’s and women’s teams are both through to the final four, while New Zealand in the women’s and Spain in the men’s complete the quartets.

In the women’s draw the unbeaten Italian team will take on three-time World Games champions, Germany, while France will take on a determined New Zealand in the other semi, In the men’s draw, defending champions Germany will lock horns with Italy, while unbeaten France will take on Spain.

France won its only World Games gold medal in 2009, when its men’s team beat Netherlands in the final. But the hoist nation of this year’s ICF canoe polo world championships is eying off double gold in Birmingham, with both its teams in good form heading into the semi-finals.

The women’s team had a comfortable 6-2 win over Great Britain in Saturday’s quarter-final, with captain Claire Moal predicting the best is yet to come for her team.

“It was tough for us because we didn’t play like we wanted to, but we did the job,” she said.

“They applied good pressure so we just just worked on our passing, and it worked.”

The French men’s team has been in strong form since it’s 11-0 win over host nation USA in its opening game. A 3-1 win over Germany confirmed its status as event favourites, and its 9-0 win over Chinese Taipei in the quarters showed the team means business.

“We had a good start to the competition, and now we have played another good game,” Baptiste Cotta said.

“We play very well together, some of us have been together for 10 or 15 years, and the younger players fit in well with us so it works well for us as a team.”

Spain men canoe polo Birmingham 2022

The German men’s team finally showed it’s close to its best form again with a clinical 5-0 win over Netherlands on Saturday. Captain Jonas Vieren said it was the best his team had played for a long time.

“Now I feel confident finally, because we hadn’t found out form so far, but now in this match I think we did play well,” Vieren said.

“We are already celebrating like we are winning because we have finally found our A game, which is so important for us and our confidence.”

The German women’s team has been the most successful canoe polo team in the history of The World Games, winning three of the four titles on offer. They beat Singapore 5-0 in the quarter finals to set up a clash with Italy in the semis.

“We know the Italian team very well from many competitions in Europe so I’m confident. They have a strong team but we also have a strong team and we can really win this,” German captain Elena Gilles said.

“I’m actually happy we got a strong quarter final so we can get into the tournament stronger and we won’t be surprised by a strong semi-final all of a sudden.”

Italy has a chance to win its first ever World Games canoe polo gold, with both its men’s and women’s team unbeaten so far in Birmingham. Men’s captain Luca Bellini is widely considered one of the greatest players ever in the game, and he’s hoping to close out his career with gold on Sunday.

“I think the match tomorrow will be really close because Germany is a very good team,” Bellini said.

“This is the semi-finals between the top teams in the world, so we will see what happens.”

The Italian women’s team prepared for its semi-final with a 12-1 result over host nation USA. Captain Roberta Elsa Catania said the tournament is about to become much tougher.

“We played very well today, on paper it maybe looked an easy match, but we now have to focus on our semi-final match,” she said.

“From now on all the matches will be hard, so we have to play well. We can’t make mistakes.”

Spain had to go into overtime against New Zealand to book its semi-final berth, triumphing 4-3. The Spaniards won bronze in 2017 and captain Angel Gordo believes his team can more than match France in Sunday’s semi.

“We played against France in the first round of the European competition and we had good form, we had a win against them,” Gordo said.

“So all we can do here is try and beat them using all our skills.”

The New Zealand women’s team had a better result, beating Netherlands 5-4 in a thriller to give the Oceania team the chance to win its first ever World Games medal. New Zealand will take on France in Sunday’s semi-final.

“It’s very exciting, it’s where we hoped to be, it’s where we planned to be, and we dug deep and we made it possible for ourselves,” captain Kate Bolton said.

“I don’t think our game against France yesterday was a fair indication of what we can do, so we know we have to step it up again tomorrow.”

In the consolation finals, Netherlands picked up fifth place in both the men's and the women's competition. The men had to go into overtime to beat Chinese Taipei 4-3, while the women defeated World Games debutants Singapore 4-1.

Great Britain defeated USA 7-2 to finish seventh in the women’s competition, while New Zealand also beat the USA to take seventh in the men’s. The final score was 10-1.

Pics by Balint Vekassy

Canoe polo crowd Birmingham World Games 2022

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