Japan are well-placed to earn a spot at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

Ukraine and Japan took a giant step towards securing an Olympic Games berth as they finished in the top two places respectively on the first day of team action at the International Swimming Federation (FINA) Synchronised Swimming Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

The eight-strong Ukrainian outfit produced the best score in the technical routine as they were awarded 92.2855 points, a mere 0.1858 more than the Japanese team's 92.0997.

A fierce battle for the third and final Rio 2016 place on offer is developing between Italy and Canada as the Italians have a slender half point advantage over their closest rivals.

Italy scored a total of 89.6820, with Canada in hot pursuit on 89.1348 going into tomorrow’s free routine, which will bring the competition at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre to a close.

The facility will play host to synchronised swimming and diving at this summer’s Olympics and the FINA Synchronised Swimming Olympic Games Qualification Tournament is doubling as a Rio 2016 test event.

Spain, who earned team silver at Beijing 2008 before claiming bronze in London four years later, face an arduous task if they are to reach the Games in the Brazilian city as they finished the opening day in fifth place on a total of 88.8637.

Italy and Canada are set to battle it out for the third and final Rio 2016 qualification slot
Italy and Canada are set to battle it out for the third and final Rio 2016 qualification slot ©Getty Images

Ukraine performed to modern electronic music entitled “Tsunami” and hold their narrow advantage over the Japanese thanks largely to an artistic impression score of 28.2000.

Japan in fact were given higher marks in both of the other scoring categories, implementation and other required elements, for their routine, performed to “Iyasaka Nippon”.

Despite a disappointing showing, Spain remain confident of squeezing into the top three with an improved display in the free routine.

“I am focused on getting an Olympic medal,” coach Anna Tarres said.

“I think we still cannot really beat Russia, but Ukraine have the same body type and impresses with the motivation that they show, overcoming difficulties such as living in a country at war and with many economic difficulties.”

Hosts Brazil, Russia, China, Australia and Egypt are the five nations who have already qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games synchronised swimming competition.

Synchronised swimming events at the Games are scheduled to be held from August 14 to 19.