The OFC Futsal Championship Invitational 2013 got underway at The Trusts Arena in Auckland, New Zealand today with four goal-filled matches, including a 7-3 loss to New Zealand for defending champions Solomon Islands.
The opening match of the tournament saw 2011 OFC Futsal Championship runners-up Tahiti take an early lead over Vanuatu with the first goal coming in the first 30 seconds courtesy of an on-form Mote Tino.
Vanuatu equalised mid-way through the first period and seemed happy to retain possession passing the ball around the Tahiti circle waiting for an opportunity to present itself. However the score remained locked at 1-1 going into the break.
Vanuatu returned to the court fired up and slipped two unanswered goals past substitute goalkeeper Teva Durot before Tahiti launched their counter-attack with eight minutes remaining. Tino knocked two goals in to earn his hat-trick before teammate Teivarii Kaiha got in on the action. However it was Tino who secured the win with a goal 28 seconds from time earning Tahiti a 5-3 victory.
Tahiti coach Heitapu Hunter was elated to get an early victory under the belt and was happy with the way his players responded to their pre-match stress.
“It was always the strategy to wait in the back and launch the counter attacks but against Vanuatu this didn’t work because they didn’t attack while we were waiting,” Hunter says. “When they were leading we had to go looking for the goals and that’s what I told the players. We aren’t used to defending like that but we also played with a lot of heart.”
Vanuatu coach Louis Dominique was disappointed with the loss but says his young charges played well, giving their all against a tough opponent.
“Most of the players are young and it’s their first tournament, and it’s my first tournament as a coach too. I think the boys have done well but there are a few things left to work on,” Dominique says.
The second match of the day saw AFC side Australia, fresh from an appearance at the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand, take on a NZ Invitational squad.
The NZ Invitational side were always going to be up against it and Australia were soon in the lead thanks to a Mark Symington strike. The Invitational side defended well but still entered the break behind by three goals.
With a healthy cushion the Australians used the second half to trial the flying goalkeeper tactic they’d also called on against the Futsal Whites during last weekend’s Trans Tasman Cup, with captain Tobias Seeto assuming the role. It clearly worked as the Australians asserted their dominance netting six times in the second period to take a 9-0 victory.
Australian coach Steve Knight says his side still have a lot of things to work on due to their inexperience, with only a few of the team’s players having attended the World Cup.
“It’s an opportunity for us to bring some of the players that missed the cut for the World Cup and see how they go under some pressure,” Knight says. “The main thing we want to get better at is maintaining possession of the ball and then being able to capitalise on that possession.”
Invitational coach Simon Mead says he is proud of the side especially as they have only been together less than a week.
“We’re here to learn and become better players, some of these younger guys have a much bigger picture ahead of them with the World Cup qualifiers in a couple of years,” Mead says. “If we can give them international experience at this level then that’s what we’re here for.”
Match three had New Caledonia coming face-to-face with newcomers to the region Malaysia of AFC, who came out firing as they aimed to stamp an early mark on the match. Abu Hasan was the one to get the scoring underway as they jumped to a 4-0 lead. New Caledonia pulled one back thanks to Malik Paulet before Malaysia extended the lead to 5-1 through Nizam Mohd Ali before New Caledonia took the sides into the break with the score at 5-2.
Malaysia continued to dominate the second period netting two more before New Caledonia pulled them back with a goal to Yvan Pourouoro from a penalty. Malaysia found the back of the net once more for a final score of 8-3 to the Asian side.
New Caledonia co-coaches William Bret and Steeve Laigle were happy with their team’s performance despite a disappointing loss.
“Malaysia is a very strong team which has played in some big competitions. We haven’t had a chance to test our team against an international side yet so they’ve done well in the first international,” Bret says.
“We were missing some experience in the first half and by the second period the boys were starting to understand the level and the speed of the game and they made up for it,” Laigle adds.
Malaysia futsal technical director Marcelo Serpa Coelho says while happy with the result he is certain the side can do better.
“We have to take care of some little details for the rest of the competition but overall I think we did well and I’m happy,” Serpa Coelho says. “We play New Zealand next so we will need to prepare well for a tough game ahead.”
In the final match of the evening reigning Oceania champions Solomon Islands faced a New Zealand smarting from their three-match Trans Tasman Cup loss to Australia over the weekend. The Futsal Whites came out faster and more accurate on the ball than the Kurukuru, whose last international was a win over Guatemala in their final group match at the FIFA Futsal World Cup in November.
Dylan Manickum was a standout for the Kiwis as he earned a hat-trick in the first half to give his side a commanding 3-0 lead coming into the second period when he once again found the back of the net three minutes into play and again two minutes later.
The night only got worse for the Kurukuru when Jack Wetney was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence. New Zealand were quick to capitalise as James Vaughan slotted in the side’s sixth goal and they soon had their seventh through Kareem Osman.
Solomon Islands finally got into the game in the last minute of the match scoring three consecutive goals but it wasn’t enough to catch the Futsal Whites, who had created a comfortable lead for themselves, with the final score 7-3 in the Kiwis favour.
Solomon Islands coach Dickson Kadau says his side’s late arrival hampered their ability to prepare and get used to the court ahead of the match but conceded New Zealand came out looking to win.
“The big difference was that they always pressed us and played a very good game tactically, they used their target very well,” Kadau says. “The next match against New Caledonia will be tough but we now have to make sure we win that game.”
New Zealand coach Scott Gilligan was incredibly pleased his side could notch up a win after a tough string of international losses.
“We’re superbly happy, what can I say? It was a great game from us, we were 7-0 up and I think we lost our heads a bit at the end there but it was a fantastic performance,” Gilligan says. “I think that it helped that we had played a few games against Australia leading up to the tournament because Australia are much faster than most of the teams in Oceania.”
The OFC Futsal Championship Invitational 2013 continues tomorrow at The Trusts Arena in Auckland with another four action-packed matches on the schedule. Solomon Islands and New Caledonia are first on the card at 2pm followed by Tahiti and the NZ Invitational side at 4pm. Australia will then face Vanuatu at 6pm before Malaysia take on New Zealand at 8pm.