Asian guests Australia and Malaysia have both booked places in the final of the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational.
Asian guests Australia and Malaysia both booked places in the final of the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational while hosts New Zealand and Tahiti will battle it out for third place after a thrilling fourth day of action at The Trusts Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
The highlights were the two semi-finals, which both served up tense encounters as all four sides fought desperately to earn a shot at the title.
The first was the more high scoring affair as Tahiti once again employed their counter-attacking style to great effect in holding Malaysia to a 3-3 draw after extra-time. The Aito Arii had twice taken the lead in the first half of regular time, through stand-out Mote Tino and Jacob Tutavae, but were hauled back on both occasions by equalisers from Malaysia-s Fawzul Mohamad.
Despite periods of frantic attacking from each side, there was no further score in the second spell as the contest was forced into the added period. Malaysia must have thought they had won it when Khairul Mohd Bahrin finally broke the Tahiti resistance just before the extra-time break but the Aito Arii hit back not long after the restart when Antoine Tave volleyed home.
Penalties were therefore needed to separate the teams and it was two-goal hero Mohamad who added to his match-winning exploits with the crucial spot kick in a 4-3 success.
“We knew the game would be tough and that Tahiti would play like that because we saw their game yesterday against Australia,” Malaysia technical advisor Marcelo Serpa Coelho said. “We controlled a lot of the ball in the second half but we couldn-t score and that gave Tahiti more confidence. We wanted to win the match before the penalties because they are always a lottery.”
Tahiti coach Heitapu Hunter couldn-t fault the effort of his charges but felt they could-ve pulled off one of the most memorable results in the country-s history if they had been more clinical in front of goal.
“I am very proud of the boys but we have to improve, I still think we can do better,” he said. “We had several opportunities to score and you have to take those chances against good teams like this.”
Malaysia found out it would be their Asian compatriots Australia who would provide the opposition in tomorrow-s final after the Futsalroos nudged past New Zealand-s Futsal Whites 2-0, Chris Zeballos scoring at the end of each half to break Kiwi hearts. The result was a huge improvement on the heavy losses suffered by New Zealand at the hands of Australia in the Trans Tasman Cup in Wellington the previous week but coach Scott Gilligan remains keen to see a further increase in standards.
“Defensively I-m happy but on attack we still need some work,” he said.
The Futsal Whites will meet Tahiti - a side that defeated the touring New Zealand 3-0 on aggregate in a recent series - in the play-off for third tomorrow and Gilligan believes it will be a close encounter.
“Tahiti are improving all the time but I think they-re in the same position as us in that both of us need to improve in the attack. I think they stay back a bit too deep defensively but they capitalise on it if you lose possession.”
Australia captain Toby Seeto was happy to have recorded another win over the old foe and believed New Zealand posed a different challenge than in previous encounters.
“They changed their set-up a bit, they were sitting deeper and waiting for us to come, unlike in the other games when they were pushing a bit higher,” he said. “They changed their tactics and credit to them for that, they made it very difficult for us and they-re on the improve.”
The afternoon had earlier kicked off with New Caledonia and NZ Invitational, both winless so far, looking to avoid the wooden spoon in the play-off for seventh spot. Despite neither side having posted a victory, New Caledonia went into the clash as warm favourites due to their status as a fully-established national team. In contrast, this tournament was the debut outing for the NZ Invitational side, which is made up of players not included in the Futsal Whites squad.
Simon Mead-s men made light of this fact though as they scored four goals for the second time running but this time managed to also secure the win. Captain Mohamed Kamri led the way with a brace while an own goal also helped NZ Invitational-s cause before substitute goalkeeper Mitchell Webber made sure of the historic 4-2 triumph by lobbing counterpart Ronan Euzen, who had pushed forward as New Caledonia searched for an equaliser, from the length of the court in the closing stages. New Caledonia-s replies were provided by skipper Yvan Pourouoro and Eric Saihuliwa.
“We-re over the moon with the result - I think it just showed what it means to play for your country and be on the international stage,” Mead said. “We-ve only been together for a few days but have worked hard and we-ve come a long way since game one. This was a learning experience for us and we-ve had a bit of heartache along the way but I think we-ve learned a great deal.”
New Caledonia co-coach William Bret felt fatigue played a big part in the loss.
“It wasn-t the best match we-ve ever played but the players were tired and we had a lot of injuries,” he said. “It wasn-t easy to play four high level matches with the little preparation we-ve had but we are very happy to have encountered these very good teams - it permits us to learn where we are in regards to the international level.”
The Solomon Islands joined NZ Invitational in signing off on a high by going on the goal rampage against Vanuatu, hitting double figures against their Melanesian neighbours for a 11-5 win. The Kurukuru have endured a disappointing campaign but returned to the form that had seen them earn four OFC titles in a row, thanks largely to a four-goal haul from Jeffery Bule and doubles to Atana Fa-arodo and George Stevenson. Captain Elliot Ragomo, Coleman Makau and Micah Lea-alafa also found the net while Vanuatu scored through skipper Ben Hungai, who struck twice, Albert Tho, Jacky John and Pakoa Rakom.
“We lost 13-1 the last time we played them so today was much better,” said Vanuatu coach Louis Dominique, who was a player in the sides- previous meeting two years ago. “There are a lot of things to work on but the players are still learning so I-m happy with our achievements.”
Solomon Islands coach Dickson Kadau was pleased to be returning home on a positive note and believed his team-s underwhelming results were largely due to the development work being put in by the other Oceania nations.
“It was a tough competition because all the countries are now trying to develop this code, unlike in the past when they weren-t focusing on futsal as much,” he said.
The last day of the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational tomorrow will see Tahiti and New Zealand meet in the third place play-off at 5pm before Malaysia and Australia contest the title in the final from 8pm.