Poland have put themselves in a position to win their first-ever men’s medal at an International Canoe Federation (ICF) Canoe Polo World Championships after scraping through to this weekend’s under-21 finals in Welland in Canada.
Poland suffered a 3-2 loss in their final qualifying match against Germany, who finished top of their group, but managed to progress to tomorrow’s semi-finals on goal difference.
"It was hard, but we did it," Poland's captain Dawid Jałoszyński said.
"I was really nervous.
"I think it’s possible to do better.
"I hope we can win the gold."
Great Britain finished top of the second group with Italy also confirming their place in the final four thanks to a solid 6-4 win over Denmark in the last match of the day at the Welland International Flatwater Centre.
Italy’s captain Paolo Zifferero claimed the team had to re-build after losing several players earlier in 2018.
"This is a wonderful result for us because we had to start again as a squad at the beginning of this year," he said.
"It’s really a huge result for us to be here and play semi-finals.
"You always have to aim for the top, but our first matches were not so good.
"Not good enough we thought to make the finals, but here we are."
One of the big surprises is the absence of France from the women’s under-21 semi-finals.
The two-time silver medallists finished third in their pool and will now contest a play-off for fifth place tomorrow.
Germany, chasing a fourth consecutive under-21 title, are due to take on Britain in one of the semi-finals.
The only game the Germans lost in qualifying was against France, and they beat Britain 7-2 in their pool match.
In the other semi-final, Poland will take on New Zealand.
The Poles are also undefeated, having notched up a 3-3 draw against Germany and a 4-4 draw against The Netherlands.
They beat New Zealand 6-5 in a pool-match thriller on Wednesday (August 1).
There are still several second-round matches to be played in the men’s and women’s senior competition, prior to the finals on Sunday (August 5).
Germany, Italy and Spain are looking strong in the men’s competition, while Germany, Italy and Britain are showing the way in the women’s.
Elena Gilles, Germany's captain, believes her team is playing good all-round canoe polo.
"We’ve been winning by quite a lot, and not just winning, we are also playing very disciplined and we are playing the tactics we had planned, so I’m really happy with the way we are going," she said.
Tomorrow is set to see the under-21 medallists decided in Welland.