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Canada loses to Greece, misses out on water polo Olympic berth

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The Canadian Press
4/6/2012 10:58:37 PM
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EDMONTON -- Canada's Olympic water polo dreams have gone down the drain.

Canada fell 10-6 to Greece in quarter-final play at the Olympic men's water polo qualifying tournament on Friday. The game determined which of the two teams would advance through to the Summer Olympic Games in London.

Nicolas Constantin-Bicari and Kevin Graham each had two goals and Aaron Feltham, and Justin Boyd the others in the losing cause for the Canadians ,who were hoping to qualify through to the Olympics for only the second time in team history after making it to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

Canada had also appeared in three other Summer Olympics without going through the qualification process, filling in for teams that dropped out in 1972 and 1984 and as the host team in Montreal in 1976.

"We gave it all we had tonight," said Graham, a Regina native. "We knew it was going to be a tough match-up, going up against the Greeks. They are an experienced team and they wanted to go to the Olympics every bit as badly as we did. Our team put it all on the line tonight, and that's all you can ask."

Canadian goalie Robin Randall, originally from Drinkwater, Sask., was still a bit stunned after the contest.

"This is going to take a few days to process, that's for sure," he said. "I'm obviously super disappointed we didn't accomplish the goal we set out to do. But I'm really happy with the heart our team showed being without our coach and all of the emotions of playing in front of the home fans. The focus this team showed was wise beyond its years."

Canadian team head coach Dragan Jovanovic wasn't allowed on the pool-side coaching platform for the match after receiving a red card for his complaints to officials in Canada's final round-robin loss to Spain, their only defeat in four games to that point.

"It wouldn't have made a difference if I was on the bench or not," Jovanovic said. "The guys fought really hard and never gave up. I have to congratulate them on their spirit. It is how we will build a winning mentality. I'm very proud of the way they played."

Montenegro, Romania and Spain also qualified for London at the tournament held at the Kinsmen Sports Centre in Edmonton.

Canada had a tough start to the match and were lucky to only be trailing 1-0 on a Greece goal three minutes in thanks to some strong goalkeeping by Randall.

The Canadian side got on the board on one of their first shots of the match with 52 seconds left in the first quarter on a goal by Constantin-Bicari, but Greece quickly countered to lead 2-1 after the opening eight-minute quarter.

The Greek swimmers surged ahead 3-2 three minutes into the second quarter and continued to press, forcing Randall to make a huge save on a penalty shot.

The Canadians briefly closed the gap on a goal by Graham with 33 seconds left but Greece scored another late goal to lead 4-2 at the half.

Canada started better in the third quarter on an early penalty shot goal by Graham, but Greece once again took away momentum with a goal just 24 seconds later to make it 5-3.

Canada once again made it a one-goal game on Constantin-Bicari's second of the match from in tight midway through the third, but Greece came right back on the third goal of the contest from Georgios Afroudakis.

The teams traded goals, with Canada's coming from Feltham, before Greece added a penalty shot with seven seconds remaining. Argyris Theodoropoulos converted the penalty for his third goal of the game as Greece led 8-5 heading in to the final quarter.

Greece basically put the game with another goal away early in the fourth.

Canada came back with a goal from Boyd, but Afroudakis scored his fourth to make for a 10-6 final and officially end the Canadian Olympic hopes.

"It's hard but there is a big silver lining in that pretty much this whole group is going to be around for another run at the next one," Graham said. "I guarantee every guy on this team is now thinking about 2016. We missed our chance to make London and it is going to take a little while to get over that, but this is a group that is going to keep fighting and you haven't seen the last of us, for sure."

"This is the youngest team in the world, by far," Jovanovic added. "The other teams will likely change quite a bit after this year's Olympics. The future for this program is very bright. We just need to wait a little bit for this team to grow and mature."

Notes: There were 11 teams taking part in the Olympic qualifying event. In addition to Canada and Greece, teams from Germany, Spain, Romania, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Turkey also took part with the top four earning berths at the Summer Olympics in London... Venezuela was intended to be the 12th team but opted out of the event... Canada finished second in Division B in round-robin play, while Greece placed third in Division A... Coach Jovanovic was an elite goalkeeper from 1978-2000 in Serbia.

Canadin Men's Water Polo Team (Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images)
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