As a region Oceania has a long way to go before it will be knocking the world’s top futsal sides from the podium but with the help of the latest TSG findings OFC futsal development officer Paul Toohey is confident a solid start has been made.
Toohey recently led the seven-strong Technical Study Group (TSG) team during the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational 2013 held at The Trusts Arena in Auckland, New Zealand which saw the likes of Solomon Islands, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Vanautu and New Zealand representing OFC as well as Australia and Malaysia from AFC.
Among the line-up were AFF football development manager Stevie Baxter, Capital Football futsal development officer Matt Fejos, Waibop futsal development officer Joe Dixon, NZ Football video analyst Carl Edwards, OFC video analyst Dylan Choi and Brisbane-based futsal coach Juliano Schmeling.
The inclusion of Schmeling in the TSG was somewhat of a coup for Toohey following the Brazilian’s involvement with the Solomon Islands national team during their 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup campaign. Schmeling worked closely with the Kurukuru spending two weeks with them in September before accompanying them to Australia, Spain and finally Thailand for the World Cup as the team’s technical advisor.
At the World Cup the Kurukuru struggled against some top sides like Russia and Colombia, but they also came away with their first Futsal World Cup win after downing Guatemala 4-3.
It was a quick lesson for Schmeling in the natural talent and determination that can be found in futsal players from the region. After a brief stint in China, the Brazilian futsal coach says the opportunity to return to New Zealand was one he couldn’t pass up.
“When Paul told me about this idea I really liked it. I had to ask who else would be taking part and was very happy because the group is young Kiwis who love futsal,” Schmeling says.
“They like this kind of sport and for me, the main reason for coming here was to work with these guys and try to help them better understand the game. I want to try and show them this game to see the different ways of futsal – that it’s not just technical but tactical.”
After having spent close to two months working with the Kurukuru and seeing them improve greatly during that period, Schmeling says their current form is a little disappointing.
“I have seen a different team here. They don’t have the same level, they need to improve and they can, they have the potential for that because they are a very special group.
“When I talk about the technical side of the game they are unbelievable. They are like Brazilians to be honest. When I first went over there I thought I was in Brazil some days because they have a lot of patience for this game and unbelievable technical skill.”
Toohey says the role of a TSG is to gather information and data to study the technical level of the tournament participants.
“On this occasion I was keen to increase the level of information we gathered to better assist the teams as they build towards the World Cup qualifiers in 2015,” he says. “We always look at the technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects of the teams but this time we have gathered more statistical data to feed into the report. In addition we are also performing video analysis on selected matches.
“The aim is to produce a more comprehensive overview for the teams. It’s early days and we’re still discussing the information we gathered, but what we can say is that each team is starting to develop its own approach to the game.
“For instance Tahiti’s deep defence, particularly against the two Asian teams – how they set about defending and counter attacking, was interesting to us. We also had the likes of Vanuatu playing a high tempo game, pressing the ball a lot and playing with freedom and flair,” Toohey says.
Schmeling agrees that the approach to the game differs from country to country – something which surprises him.
“Oceania is very interesting because you can see different kinds of talents, different styles. I lived in New Zealand for almost two years and the style there is very different to Solomon Islands for example. And Solomon Islands is very different from Tahiti and Tahiti from New Caledonia.
“I’ve come from South America and there every country plays very similar in terms of skills and tactics and we love that, it’s part of our life futsal and football. Here it’s like a mix of different skills but I believe there is potential, not just in New Zealand but around the Pacific.”