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Louis Daignault (ISN)

July 24, 2013, Barcelona (ISN) – The national men’s water polo team was unsuccessful in its campaign against Croatia on Wednesday, losing a 13-8 battle to the 2012 Olympic gold medalists in the preliminary round at the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Barcelona.

Canada held back Croatia’s offense until the middle of the first quarter but the effort was insufficient to keep the experienced European team at bay for very long. Croatia had taken a 3-0 lead by the end of the period.

“We have made strides after our first game on Monday, but we need to shape up our defense,” said Pierrefonds, Que. resident Devon Diggle. “It took us the first quarter to find our rhythm, but by then we had already fallen behind.”

It was Calgary’s Scott Robinson who registered Canada’s first goal early in the second quarter. Offered a penalty shot a few minutes later, captain Kevin Graham capitalized by adding a point for his team, as did Devon Diggle just before the game’s halfway mark. The Croatians had however kept up the pace with three goals of their own during the period, such that they still had a three point lead 6-3 at the half.

Unrelenting, the Croat team increased its advantage to 8-3 within the first two minutes of the second half. Nicolas Constantin-Bicari then scored for Canada on another penalty shot, and found the back of the net a second time within the same minute. Despite an additional point from Oliver Vikalo, Canada was outscored in the third period as the opponent recorded two more goals and set the score to 10-6 by the time the clock ran out.

In the final quarter of the game, Croatia’s solid marking and blocking made it difficult for Canada to add more than the two single goals from Justin Boyd and John Conway. The Croatian shots got past Canadian goalie Robin Randall three more times to arrive to the final game score of 13-8.

The game was head coach Alex Beslin’s second as leader of the Canadian men in a World Championship. “We’ve seen a much better performance compared to our first game here in Barcelona but we still made too many mistakes to beat the current Olympic champions. At this point, we will focus on continuing to build and improve.”

The Canadian men will meet their final opponents in the World Championships’ preliminary round on Friday, July 26 with a much-anticipated clash against the U.S.A at 8:10 p.m. local time (2:10 p.m. EDT).

This match will finalize the order in the men’s competition’s group B, which in turn determines the schedule for this Sunday’s crossover quarterfinal qualification game.