Germany dominated the race at Eton Dorney from start to finish — winning gold with a time of 5:48.75, just ahead of the Canadians, who rowed to a 5:49.98 time. The Germans have not been defeated since 2009.
"The start was really clean and quick, and I just remember staying really internal and in our own boat," Canadian Robert Gibson said in a release. "The Germans are the cream of the crop and we didn't want to get fazed by their speed. We did everything."
Great Britain spent most of the race level with Germany, but settled for bronze with a time of 5:51.18.
"An unreal race, we were so stoked," Doug Csima of Oakville, Ont. said. "We executed our plan exactly and it was a great feeling rowing through the British in the last 250 metres. We're happy."
Canada, the defending Olympic champions, had to earn their spot in the final through Monday's repechage, where they finished second after placing last in their heat on Saturday. Germany and the United States dominated their heats on Day 1 to advance directly to the final.
The Canadian crew had only three returning members from their gold medal-winning Beijing team — Toronto's Andrew Byrnes, Victoria's Malcolm Howard and coxswain Brian Price of Belleville, Ont.
The other members of the Canadian eight are Will Crothers of Kingston, Ont., Jeremiah Brown of Cobourg, Ont., Conlin McCabe of Brockville, Ont., and Gabe Bergen of 100 Mile House, B.C.
Canada's women's eight are the next crew aiming for the podium in their final on Thursday.
Canadian pair heading to final
Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen placed third in their men's pair semifinal on Wednesday, giving them a chance to climb the podium in Friday's final.
The Canadians finished with a time of 6:56.47, behind New Zealand (6:48.11) and Italy (6:55.82).
"We're through and now we need to get focused on what it's going to take to get a medal," Calder said in a release. "Everything's going to re-set and we'll be back to two kilometres and square one."
In the men's lightweight double sculls, Douglas Vandor of Dewittville, Que., and Clearwater Bay, Ont.'s Morgan Jarvis won their "D" semifinal on Wednesday with a time of 7:02.85, securing a spot in the "C" final. The rowers won't be competing for a medal, but could finish as high as 13th.