(Submitted by Water Polo Canada)
Canada tasted its first defeat at the FINA water polo Olympic qualifier in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Having bested Brazil in its tournament opener, Canada got put to the sword 21-7 against Montenegro on Monday.
Defeating the world No. 6 was always going to be a tall order for the 13-th ranked Canadians, who are now 1-1 at the week-long competition.
While Canada still has two games to go in round-robin play, it must finish among the top four in its group to keep its Olympic hopes alive and advance to the elimination cross over—where only the top 3 finishers will secure a spot in Tokyo.
WATCH | Montenegro thrashes Canda at Rotterdam's Olympic qualifier:
In addition to Montenegro and Brazil, Canada is joined in Group A by Georgia and Greece. Turkey was also in the Group A, but was forced to withdraw from the tournament after five players tested positive for COVID-19.
Group B consists of hosts Netherlands, Croatia, France, Russia, Germany and Romania.
From the get go, Canada was in for a tough one against Montenegro, surrendering six straight goals in the first quarter.
Mark Spooner's late tally was the only early bright spot, with Canadian coach Giuseppe Porzio admitting in a post-match interview that his team got overwhelmed. "We were a little bit scared in the first and we lost a little bit the game," he said.
Canada responded better in the second thanks to a pair from Sean Spooner and another from captain Nic Constantin-Bicari.
Canada looks to rebound
Even as Canada slowly got going, Montenegro's offence kept firing—noting six more to close out the second quarter with an already near-unsurmountable 13-4 lead.
Jeremie Cote's two goals in the third, followed by Constanin-Bicare's second of the match were the last three goals Canada would score before being completely shutout in the fourth.
With eight different goal scorers, Montenegro, led by Dusan Matkovic and Aleksandar Ivovic who scored five apiece, never took its foot of the gas, becoming the first team in the tournament to break the 20-goal barrier.
Porzio, however, was quick to stress the importance of Canada's next match against Georgia.
"Tomorrow is another story and a different Game. That's why tomorrow [against Georgia] is a big match."
A win over Georgia would greatly improve Canada's chances of not only reaching the cross-over elimination, but securing a favourable opponent.
Live action of all of Canada's matches can be seen live on CBC Sports.