AUCKLAND – The Futsal Whites defeated Tahiti 1-0 in the 3rd place play off at the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational to become kings of Oceania.
With Asian invitational sides Australia and Malaysia competing in the final it was the 3rd place play off game between New Zealand and Tahiti that would decide the Oceania champions.
Having defeated the Futsal Whites 3-0 earlier in the year Tahiti were favourites coming into the game, but the Futsal Whites were determined to avenge that defeat and show just how far they had come since that tour.
With both teams showing resilience in defence throughout the tournament the game always looked to be a tight affair, with a set piece or mistake proving the difference. And so it proved to be as New Zealand were given a free kick in dangerous area in just the 5th minute. Marvin Eakins pulled the ball back to Daniel Burns, who calmly slotted the ball into the corner through a crowded defence.
It was the perfect start for the Futsal Whites, enabling them to retain their defensive shape and look for a second goal on the break.
Elias Billeh was forced into action several times as Tahiti searched for an equaliser, getting more and more frustrated as the Futsal Whites defence held firm. Their epic semi final defeat to Australia, having gone all the way to penalties, was to prove a factor as they visibly tired throughout the game.
With some heroic defending from everyone on the court Tahiti ran out of ideas and as the clock ticked down reverted to the flying goalkeeper tactic to utilise the extra man. It almost paid off in the final seconds as a ball into the box caused momentary panic before goalscoring hero Dylan Manickum turned defensive hero as he cleared off the line with only seconds left on the clock.
Futsal Whites coach Scott Gilligan says a sensational performance from his side gave them the edge on this occasion.
“We played with Tahiti’s strength in defence tonight. I think we kept possession superbly in the first half, we got the goal which helped us of course, but our concentration was making sure we didn’t concede,” Gilligan says.
Looking ahead to the next FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifiers Gilligan says his team will have to continue building on the foundations they have laid during this tournament.
“The qualifiers are a whole different ball game again. It’s been a tremendous job by these guys but they have to keep working at it because I know these guys (Tahiti) are going to come back even stronger in 2015.”
In the final Australia marked their return to Oceania with a thrilling 5-1 victory against Malaysia.
Dylan Manickum won the Golden Boot with nine goals, five of which came in his first match against Solomon Islands and the team also secured The Fair Play award.
New Zealand: 18. Elias BILLEH (GK), 3. Dylan MANICKUM, 7. Marvin EAKINS (c), 8. Daniel BURNS, 15. Micky MALIVUK.
Substitutes: 2. James VAUGHAN, 4. Ouadhah RAGUED, 5. Miro MAJOR, 6. Kareem OSMAN, 9. Jakub SINKORA, 14. Tai BARHAM, 1. Atta ELAYYAN (GK).
Coach: Scott GILLIGAN (AUS)
OFC Futsal Championship Invitational Day 5 Results
Saturday 27 July
The Trusts Arena
Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand: 1 (Daniel BURNS)
Malaysia: 1 (Qaiser ABDUL KADIR)
Australia: 5 (Toby SEETO 3, Adam COOPER, Wade GIOVENALI)
Additional reporting by Oceania Football (www.oceaniafootball.co.nz)