New Zealand gear up for OFC Futsal Championship

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NZ Football

New Zealand are among seven teams set to clash in next month’s OFC Futsal Championship who have named their final squads and are putting in the hard yards ahead of the tournament.

The competition will be held at the Vodafone Arena in Suva, Fiji, from August 8 to 14 and includes national sides from Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

This year’s event is the seventh edition of the exciting, five-a-side indoor tournament and is the second to be held since it became an annual fixture. Previously, it was staged once every four years as a qualification tournament for the FIFA Futsal World Cup.

While Fiji 2010 does not serve as a qualifier, the seven participating teams will have an opportunity to develop players in preparation for next year’s championship which will determine OFC’s representative for the FIFA finals in Thailand 2012.

It will also present a invaluable benchmark for the Futsalwhites, who have never one the OFC Futsal Championship but are competing under the full auspices of New Zealand Football for the first time.

If history is anything to go by, the Solomon Islands will be the ones to beat in Fiji next month. The ‘Kurukuru’ side made history in 2008 by becoming the first Pacific nation other than Australia to win the tournament (Australia is a founding member of OFC but switched to the Asian Confederation in 2006) and repeated that feat a year later.

Hosts Fiji will be keen this time to finally reverse a trend that has seen them finish runners-up on three occasions while Vanuatu will also be hoping to improve on a remarkably consistent run of five consecutive third placings.

New Zealand, Tahiti and Tuvalu all return to the competition after a one-year break while New Caledonia will want to put last year’s fourth place finish behind them.

OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas believes the futsal championship is an important fixture on the OFC calendar.

“The popularity of futsal continues to grow around the world and it is no different here in Oceania,” he says.

“We have been encouraged to see seven teams sign up for this year’s championship – three more than in 2009. And with OFC Futsal Development Officer Scott Gilligan working hard to develop the right structures across all of our Member Associations, the future looks bright for futsal.”

Twelve players have been selected for each squad. The Futsalwhites team is available here while team lists for all participants are available on the OFC website.

Original story: OFC Media.

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