In a match many considered a must-win for Canada, five men scored twice in a tournament-opening 11-7 victory over Brazil on Sunday at the FINA water polo Olympic qualifier in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Three of the 12 teams will secure a spot at the Tokyo Games this summer, joining Australia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Serbia, South Africa, Spain and United States.
Canada, ranked 13th in the world, is also facing No. 6 Montenegro, No. 8 Greece, Georgia and Turkey in group play at the week-long event. Greece and Montenegro, in no particular order, are expected to secure the top two spots in Group A, with two other teams also advancing to the crossover quarter-finals on Feb. 19.
WATCH | Canada strikes early, often to begin Olympic qualifier:
“There’s a monumental difference between placing third or fourth in the group,” CBC Sports analyst George Gross Jr. said earlier this week. “The fourth-place finisher will cross over to play [likely Group B winner] Croatia [ranked No. 2] and it’s goodbye Charlie, but the team finishing third is going to draw a [favourable opponent].
- Monday vs. Montenegro, 11:30 a.m.
- Feb. 16 vs. Georgia, 10 a.m.
- Feb. 17 vs. Turkey, 2:30 p.m.
- Feb. 18 vs. Greece, 8:30 a.m.
- Feb. 19 — Quarter-finals
- Feb. 20 — Semifinals
- Feb. 21 — Finals
On Sunday, the Canadians jumped out to a 4-3 lead in the first quarter at Zwemcentrum Rotterdam, with Bicari and Cote adding to Spooner’s output. Constantin-Bicari is likely to be the offensive force for a young outfit featuring many players making their Olympic qualification debut while Cote, a six-foot-two attacker from Montreal, is a standout offensive player with University of the Pacific Tigers in Stockton, Calif.
Canada led 5-4 after the second quarter and 8-6 after the third.
- Milan Radenovic, Toronto
- Gaelan Patterson, North Vancouver, B.C.
- Bogdan Djerkovic, Ottawa
- Nicolas Constantin-Bicari, Repentigny, Que.
- Mark Spooner, Port Coquitlam, B.C.
- George Torakis, Montreal
- Jérémie Côté, Pointe-Claire, Que.
- Sean Spooner, Port Coquitlam, B.C.
- Aleksa Gardijan, Gatineau, Que.
- Aria Soleimanipak, Calgary
- Max Schapowal, Beaconsfield, Que.
- Reuel D’Souza, Port Coquitlam, B.C.
- Samuel Reiher, Longueuil, Que.