Sides book semi-final match ups

The third day of action started with two sides, Vanuatu and NZ Invitational, going out in search of their first wins and the chance to head into the placing play-offs on a high. It was Vanuatu who earned that boost with a 7-4 triumph, although the Invitational team will have been buoyed at finally finding the net for their first goals of the tournament.
Pakoa Rakom led the way for Vanuatu with a hat-trick while captain Ben Hungai set a good example for his troops with a brace. Dudley Dominique and Jacky John were also on target while four different scorers – Matthew Edridge, Charl Compaan, Jan Fischer and Stephen Ashby-Peckham – struck for NZ Invitational.
Defeated coach Simon Mead was relieved to finally get on the scoreboard and felt his team is showing patches of promise but needs to put in a more complete performance.
“At international level you have to be able to put it together for 40 minutes or so,” he said. “We scored some goals and, technically and tactically, we can compete with them but we showed a bit of inexperience and leaked some goals. This tournament is the first international experience for many of our players and they have put a lot of heart into it but at international level sometimes that’s not enough.”
Vanuatu counterpart Louis Dominique is in a similar boat in that he has a young side under his wing and is using this week mainly to inject some experience into the group.
“We came here to get some exposure so I think we have achieved well so far,” he said. “I’m very happy with the way the boys played today and it’s good to get a win. We had the same game plan we used against Australia but we made less mistakes than yesterday and that’s why we won.”
The clash of the winless sides was swiftly followed by an unbeaten match up as Australia and Tahiti went head-to-head in the second game of the afternoon. Both came into today with perfect records after posting two wins from two and something therefore had to give.
Tahiti had clearly formulated a game plan of sitting deep to frustrate the Australians and try to hit them on the break and that tactic worked for the opening period as a match entered half-time scoreless for the first time in the tournament. But Australia’s dominance of the possession stakes was always likely to prove telling at some point and the Aito Arii’s resistance was finally broken when captain Matana Bea turned a Wade Giovenali cross into his own net. Adam Cooper then slotted home a pass from skipper Toby Seeto to continue the Futsalroos’ victorious march.
“Tahiti were very organised and they set up well in defence so it was difficult for us,” Seeto said. “From the limited knowledge we had we expected them to sit deep so we had a game plan to try to get round them but all credit to them, they’re a good team. We’re happy with the three points and now we can move onto the semi-final tomorrow.”
Tahiti coach Heitapu Hunter was pleased his side made the most of facing a team that competed against some of the best futsal outfits on the planet at last November’s World Cup.
“I’m really proud of how the boys performed because for us to play Australia is a pleasure,” he said. “It was fantastic to prove that we are able to compete with a team at that level. But we stayed at the back for too long and I think we probably respected them a bit too much. When we came here our goal was to play both of the Asian teams so we’re really happy to now be playing Malaysia in the semi-finals.”
New Zealand needed a result against New Caledonia if they were to have any hope of making it into the semi-finals and with the Francophone side winless so far the odds were in the Kiwis’ favour.
Daniel Burns opened the floodgates for the Futsal Whites less than two minutes into the half before adding one more for his brace. New Caledonia responded through Malik Paulet and captain Yvan Pourouoro’s double but their case wasn’t helped when Dylan Manickum’s shot was deflected in for an own goal. Manickum managed to get on the board twice as he leapt ahead in the Golden Boot race, while teammates Marvin Eakins and Jakub Sinkora also scored to give the Futsal Whites a 7-2 victory.
New Zealand coach Scott Gilligan said his side’s nervousness showed in the first half as they knew their chance of advancing rested in their own hands.
“Tonight we were sloppy. They were really nervous to start with and the second half was a bit better, we played with a bit more composure. The first half we started to panic but I think that’s the monkey off the back for them and they’ll be ready for the semi-final now.”
For New Caledonia co-coaches Steeve Laigle and William Bret, a third consecutive defeat is tough to take but the chance to play some quality sides outweighs that disappointment.
“I am very proud of the players,” Bret said. “We were faced with the tournament’s three best teams and I think we did what we could with what we had and they can’t be faulted for that.”
In the final match of the evening, Solomon Islands needed to win by at least five goals against the already qualified Malaysians if they hoped to progress to the semi-finals. However fortune did not favour the Kurukuru, who have struggled to show the form that got them to the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup, with Samuel Osifelo opening the scoring for Malaysia with an own goal.
Whilst they showed flashes of brilliance, the Solomon Islands struggled to find the target despite getting off a number of decent shots, netting just once through Micah Lea’alafa. Malaysia on the other hand had little trouble making their way past keeper Anthony Talo with Khairul Mohd Bahrin scoring a brace and Asmie Zahari one for a 4-1 win.
Malaysia technical director Marcelo Serpa Coelho said his side defended well and controlled the ball which aided them when it came to the crunch.
“The Solomon Islands are a good team and have some good players who are skilled in one-on-one situations,” Serpa Coelho said. “Tahiti defend deeply and like to hit on the break so we will have to be aware of that. We will need to be organised well in attack and not allow them to counter attack us.”
Kurukuru coach Dickson Kadau said his side lacked concentration at times which didn’t help their cause on the court.
“Some of the decisions didn’t go our way and that caused us to lose some of our concentration,” Kadau says. “We need to be more tactically aware in the next match and to improve our mental strength, we need to focus on this. We have a lot of respect for Vanuatu because they have a lot of ability. We are looking forward to playing them because they are our neighbours so that always makes it a bit more special.”
Tomorrow’s matches will see New Caledonia and NZ Invitational play for 7th/8th position at 1pm while defending champions Solomon Islands will encounter Vanuatu in the play-off for 5th/6th place at 3pm. In the first semi-final Malaysia will face Tahiti at 5pm before Australia and New Zealand line-up for the fourth time in a week in the second semi-final at 8pm.

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