Australia's 6-1 victory over Vanuatu ensures they secure a spot in the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational semi-finals.
Asian representatives Australia and Malaysia continued to underline their quality with important wins while Solomon Islands returned to form and Tahiti kept up their unbeaten record in an intriguing second day of the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational at The Trusts Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
Today-s results mean Australia, Malaysia and Tahiti have now all booked their place in the semi-finals while New Zealand-s Futsal Whites and the Solomon Islands will fight it out for the remaining spot.
The day started off in redeeming fashion for defending champions Solomon Islands, who swept a spirited New Caledonia outfit aside 7-4 to remind their rivals that they are still likely to be a title threat in this tournament. The Kurukuru had seen their pride dented the day before when an inspired New Zealand posted a memorable 7-3 victory and were in great need of a confidence-boosting result.
While not yet back to their best, they did record the win they so desperately needed thanks a pair of braces, from Samuel Osifelo and captain Elliot Ragomo, and further goals to Coleman Makau, Jeffery Bule and Micah Lea-alafa. New Caledonia skipper Yvan Pourouoro joined his Solomon counterpart in striking twice while Thierry Waima and Eric Saihuliwa also found the target but it was not enough for Les Cagous to avoid posting their second successive defeat.
Kurukuru coach Dickson Kadau was relieved to have gotten some points on the board and, after coming to Auckland on the back of some far-from-adequate preparations, feels his side will get stronger as the tournament progresses.
“We-re happier with the performance, it was a big change from yesterday and we were much more organised. Our game plan was just to be patient and take our chances when they came and we managed to implement that,” he said. “We improved a lot defensively from the New Zealand game.”
New Caledonia co-coach Steeve Laigle felt a lack of concentration let Les Cagous down.
“It-s a young team and for more than half this is their first international experience, so they are discovering what it-s like at this level,” he said. “It-s difficult for the players but I think tomorrow they will represent themselves well against New Zealand.”
New Caledonia-s francophone cousins, Tahiti, have enjoyed far better fortunes so far and are yet to be beaten after recording another win today. But they were made to work hard for their 2-0 success over a determined NZ Invitational side, who may well have taken something from the game if they were able to find a sharper edge in front of goal.
Mana Faarahia and Gaby Kavera provided the goals as the Aito Arii continued their victorious march but, despite boasting a perfect record so far, Tahiti coach Heitapu Hunter will feel there is more to come from his men, who were installed as pre-tournament dark horses for the title by many.
“I think we were very strong in defence and weren-t too troubled,” Hunter said. “But as per usual we weren-t able to score the goal that could kill the match. We missed a lot of opportunities to score but New Zealand were also difficult to break down.”
NZ Invitational coach Simon Mead believed there was still much to be taken from the game in spite of the loss.
“We-re here to learn and we-ve got much bigger goals ahead of us,” he said. “There-s just that little bit of experience lacking and it showed on the final pass.”
Australia appear to still be the side to beat another notching another large win, 6-1 over Vanuatu, but this victory was far from as straightforward as yesterday-s 9-0 dismantling of NZ Invitational. The young Vanuatu side put in very strong display as they searched for their first win of the tournament and were behind by just one Daniel Fogarty goal at the break.
Vanuatu had really taken the game to their more illustrious rivals in the first half and created a host of chances but could not find a way past Australia-s well-performed custodian Angelo Konstantinou. The Futsalroos- class began to tell in the second period however as Fogarty went on to notch a four-goal haul and was joined in finally cracking the Vanuatu defence by Mark Symington and Adam Cooper. Vanuatu-s consolation came from Albert Tho.
“It was always going to be a difficult match for us because Australia are such a good side - they have recently participated in the World Cup so are the favourites for this tournament,” Vanuatu coach Louis Dominique said. “We had a game plan to press them into their half in the first half but unfortunately in the second half we made a lot of mistakes and couldn-t take our chances. But we are very happy with the first-half performance and I must congratulate the boys for that.”
Despite the heavy nature of the scoreline, Australia coach Steve Knight was impressed with the ability of the Vanuatu side.
“They-re certainly a lot quicker than we are and their technique is very good,” he said. “I think Vanuatu are probably on a par with the likes of Thailand in terms of agility and speed, which certainly helps in this game. So if they were a little bit better organised they-d certainly pose a big threat to countries like us.”
The last match of the evening brought New Zealand-s Futsal Whites - still on a high after their marvelous result against Solomon Islands - up against Malaysia but they couldn-t match their well-drilled opponents and fell to a 7-1 humbling. Khairul Mohd Bahrin, who struck twice, Shamsul Zamri, Nizam Mohd Ali, Abu Hasan, Firdaus Ambiah and Fawzal Mohamad all found the net while New Zealand-s lone goal was hit home by Dylan Manickum, his sixth of the tournament.
“AFC is a standard above OFC and it showed tonight,” Futsal Whites coach Scott Gilligan said. “We didn-t have the intensity we did last night and paid the price. The next match is now very important, it-s a must win for us.”
Malaysia technical advisor Marcelo Serpa Coelho felt his side-s ruthlessness in front of goal proved the difference.
“New Zealand played well but they couldn-t get the ball in,” he said. “There are days when the ball goes in and days when it doesn-t but we were lucky today with scoring.”
The OFC Futsal Championship Invitational continues at The Trusts Arena tomorrow with Vanuatu meeting NZ Invitational at 2pm before Australia take on Tahiti at 4pm. New Zealand and New Caledonia then clash at 6pm prior to Malaysia and Solomon Islands facing off at 8pm.