Qantas Futsalroos Vow To Make A Splash
FIFA.com - Australia's futsal stars travel to their fifth FIFA Futsal World Championship in Chinese Taipei hoping to improve on a record of two wins from 12 matches at the finals.
FIFA.com - Australia's futsal stars travel to their fifth FIFA Futsal World Championship in Chinese Taipei hoping to improve on a record of two wins from 12 matches at the finals. The Oceania representatives have failed to survive the group stage on their four previous attempts but are determined to do more than make up the numbers this time. Coach Scott Gilligan, at the national helm since 2001, is in defiant mood ahead of the opening fixture against Brazil: "We're determined to play well, get through to the second round and make people sit up and take notice," he told FIFA.com. The 'Futsalroos' hope to lay down a marker against the Brazilians, rated one of the favourites for the title. "It's more than just a warm-up for us. We want to play well, keep our focus for 40 minutes and come away with a decent result. You never know, anything could happen. That's the attitude we're taking into the match," the former international declared. The Aussies held their own in the first half when the sides met in a friendly two weeks ago, but by the end the South Americans had run up a crushing 12-1 scoreline. "We never left the dressing room for the second half," Gilligan said with a wry grin. A side in search of form
The coach intends to use the meeting with the three-time world champions to get his players attuned to the speed and rhythm of top quality tournament play. Australia hope to turn up the gas when it comes to the second match against the Czech Republic: "That will be the key fixture, because Brazil are unquestionably favourites to win the group. Our goal must be to beat the Czechs or at least draw with them." Gilligan will keep a close eye on the East Europeans' opener against Thailand, "because we've never seen the Czechs live. All we've got are a couple of videos." The coach is happy with the potential in his 14-strong squad. "We've got a well-balanced team and all my players have the ability to compete at world championship level. If we end up needing to replace someone it won't mean a drop in quality. We definitely haven't had this kind of depth in the past." Healthy blend of youth and experience
The squad has an average age of 25 years and five months, third youngest at the finals behind Chinese Taipei and Paraguay. The Aussies also boast the youngest player of all, 17-year-old Danny Ngaluafe (pictured above), the best emerging talent in Australian futsal. "I only found out about him in January. By Australian standards, he has outstanding ball skills and huge potential. He'll pick up valuable experience at the tournament - and he has the quality, so we're giving him a chance." The Australians also feature a clutch of experienced players, including Brett Hewitt, Simon Keith, Andrew Nolan, Gavin O'Brien and Elliot Zwangobani, all of whom appeared at the 2000 FIFA Futsal World Championship in Guatemala. Australia's games will be broadcast on TV at home, and the team is hoping for a good showing to boost the development of the sport in the country. "Not a lot will change if all we do is just repeat the past," Gilligan acknowledged, "but if we play well it could act as a catalyst. The association is currently considering the introduction of a national league, something we had before in the Eighties." Brazil and Spain rated favourites
Gilligan is looking forward to an exciting and evenly balanced tournament. "Standards have risen in general, although you have to say Brazil and Spain are still way out in front. It's always a thrill watching the Brazilians, and every team has something to learn from the Spaniards' discipline. But Italy with their Brazil-born players have a good team too." The coach identified a number of dark horses: "Let's see how it goes for Ukraine and Portugal, who came third last time out in Guatemala. Don't forget Australia either and you can't even write off Iran or Japan. Japan recently beat Argentina 3-1 which raised a few eyebrows." Whatever happens in terms of results, Gilligan is confident of "learning something new; you always do." Finding top-quality opponents remains a perennial thorn in Australia's side, as travel presents a major challenge in terms of time and money. "It's definitely one of our biggest problems," he admits. "Before 2001 there weren't really that many people interested in futsal. But we've seen a change since then, so the issue with money is less important now. I reckon we've played more warm-up matches before this World Championship than any other team. Now it's up to us to turn in a good display." Australia kicks off its campaign against a fired up Brazil team later tonight, with SBS to show the match on a delayed telecast at 10.50pm. All three Australian matches will be shown by SBS, with the second game against the Czech Republic (Thursday 25 November) on at 11.00pm and the third game against Thailand (Saturday 27 November) on at 12:15pm.