Teams eye up beach glory

The OFC Beach Soccer Championship 2011 will be held in Tahiti from February 22 to 26 and the winner will go on to represent Oceania at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011, set to take place in Ravenna, Italy during September.
The sides fighting it out for that honour will be Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and hosts Tahiti, and they found out what their paths to the title would be this month when the draw for the competition was officially conducted.
The draw was held at OFC headquarters in the presence of OFC Competitions Committee Chairman and Federation Caledonniene de Football President Claude Fournier, Vanuatu Football Federation President Lambert Maltock, Fédération Tahitienne de Football President Thierry Ariiotima and OFC Head of Competitions David Firisua.
The teams have been drawn to meet each other once over three days of group stage action with two games taking place every day. The fourth day of play will see the sides finishing first and second on the points table face off in the final while the bottom two finishers will battle it out for third place.
Each of the four nations taking part were also involved when the tournament was last held in 2009. Solomon Islands beat Vanuatu 1-0 in the final to emerge victorious while Tahiti picked up the bronze medal thanks to a 6-3 win over Fiji.
Ensuring this year’s event is a success will be particularly important to the host nation as Tahiti has also been chosen to stage the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2013.
Tahiti won the right to host the FIFA event last March in what was a big coup for Fédération Tahitienne de Football. They beat off competition from world-class bidders Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Poland and Oman and will become the first Pacific nation to hold a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
More than 600 players, staff and spectators are expected to come to Tahiti for the World Cup and it is likely to inject a significant boost into the country’s economy. It will also expose Tahiti as an international holiday destination as the games will be broadcast on television in 147 nations.
OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas says next month’s OFC championships will give the local organising committee the perfect opportunity to prove it is capable of hosting the World Cup. But he adds that the Oceania qualifiers are important in their own right and will bring plenty of drama and excitement to the sands of Papeete.
“The growth and development of beach soccer has increased markedly in recent years and FIFA invests plenty of resources into the game,” he says.
“It is an area of football in which OFC can make great strides because the Pacific has many miles of beautiful golden sands that are perfect for the playing of this exciting sport. The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup is a prestigious event and the chance to be a part of that will make the OFC championship a very competitive and entertaining tournament.”
The Bilikiki, as the Solomon Islands team is known, have represented Oceania at four consecutive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups since 2006 and posted a 7-6 win over Uruguay, then ranked fourth in the world, at the 2009 event. Italy 2011 will be the first tournament to take place under the competition’s new two-year cycle.
OFC Beach Soccer Championship Tahiti 2011
Schedule:
Match Day 1:
Solomon Islands vs. Fiji
Vanuatu vs. Tahiti
Match Day 2:
Solomon Islands vs. Vanuatu
Tahiti vs. Fiji
Match Day 3:
Tahiti vs. Solomon Islands
Fiji vs. Vanuatu
Match Day 4:
3rd vs. 4th
1st vs. 2nd

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