New Caledonia and Vanuatu had opposing fortunes on day 2 of the competition, but equal on points, they too will be keen for victories to keep them in podium position with two more days of matches to go.
Having suffered two defeats on the trot, the final match of the day between Fiji and Tahiti will also be an exciting clash as the two sides look to put some points on the board.
The format of the competition makes every match crucial and that is certainly the way that Solomon Islands coach Juliano Schmeling sees things.
“New Zealand are of course one of the favourites and it will be another final,” he says, “but like I said yesterday, all of the games will be a final for us.
“We know New Zealand in the last few years have been preparing for this so we know that they will be a tough game, like yesterday and the day before.”
His opposing coach Scott Gilligan has been working in the Oceania region for many years and knows the threat the Kurukuru pose.
“It’s obviously the final isn’t it, when you look at it,” Gilligan says.
“The winner takes it all, so we just have to keep playing as we’re playing,”
After taking some time away from the international stage, the Kurukuru look very close to the form that has seen them scoop four regional titles over the years. Under Schmeling, they’re getting additional tactical knowledge which combined with their extraordinary talent for the five-a-side game, has seen them flourish.
New Zealand meanwhile have been charging ahead under the instruction of Gilligan whose programme started soon after the 2011 qualifiers, with an eye on qualification for Colombia. The progress has been exceptional and the determination of the players to achieve their goal is evident every time they take to the court.
This evening’s match certainly has all the anticipation of a grand final, and neither side will be willing to concede an inch to their opponent as the FIFA Futsal World Cup beckons.
In the day’s opener New Caledonia will be coming in fresh from their first defeat here in Suva, and Vanuatu from their first win. Both are still eyeing the prize and while they’ll be praying for a slip-up from the two top teams, still have to do the work themselves to keep themselves in the chase.
For William Bret the loss to the Solomon Islands came down to experience, but the lesson has been learned and the teachings ready to be applied against their neighbours Vanuatu.
“We responded well in the second half but that’s it, we’re learning. Yes we have some experience, but we also have a lot of younger players and they’re still learning what international matches are, and what they require.”
A buoyant Louis Dominique was pleased with how his side bounced back from their opening loss, showing greater concentration and patience both in and out of possession.
Dominique has plenty of talent in his side, but like New Caledonia has a mix of experience and youth. While that can be advantageous, it can also make things a little harder when it comes to the rapid decision making that is required in this fast-paced discipline.
All the same, Dominique is happy that progress is being made and his side continues to be competitive.
“We wanted to get everyone out on the pitch to have a run yesterday because we had to win the game. Everyone had a run and that kept the momentum in our strategy which was key.
“We have to win today. We want to do something while we’re here and be on the right track for the qualifier, because this is a qualifier.”
In the day’s final match hosts Fiji will welcome Tahiti back to Vodafone Arena knowing that what awaits on the court will test them in every way.
Tahiti have proven themselves a strong side and have been somewhat unlucky to still be without a win here at the 2016 OFC Futsal Championship after two impressive performances against the two top sides.
It’s obviously disappointing for Jacob Tutavae who has spent months preparing his charges for a single objective.
“We came here to win all five matches. We’ve lost two now but we won’t give up because what we did yesterday was incredible, we just need to revisit some of the smaller details,” he says.
“The domination was from us, the majority of the time we were in our opponents half, unfortunately we took some risks and they didn’t always pay off.”
Intiaz Khan hasn’t been working with his side quite so long, but what Fiji is bringing to the court shouldn’t be underestimated. Fans witnessed a vast improvement between day one and day two as Fiji pushed Vanuatu to their limit.
The experience the players are getting is priceless and every game is another learning experience as far as Khan is concerned.
“On day one the players were shocked, but yesterday they opened up and it made a difference to the performance. The physicality is still lacking a bit on our team but that will come. What we need is more game time, more matches so we keep getting better,” he says.
“It’s going to be hard for us physically, looking at the Tahitians and looking at my boys. It’s going to be a mammoth task.”
New Caledonia vs. Vanuatu
Wednesday 10 February 2016
Kick-off: 3pm (local)
Referee 1: Phillip MANA (SOL)
Referee 2: Kamedra NAIDU (FIJ)
Third Official: Aten KUMAR (FIJ)
Timekeeper: Rex KAMUSU (SOL)
Vital Statistics: Just four shots were on target for New Caledonia against Solomon Islands and they enjoyed just 34 per cent of possession.
The Players: Ivann Pourouoro continues to be a stand-out member of the squad making decisive tackles and inspiring attacks all in one breath. Mainon Kaouwi has proven himself a sturdy defender, unafraid to put his body on the line to make a save.
Coach Quote: “We know Vanuatu really well both on and off the court. It will be an interesting match. They’re very quick and play a bit like the Solomons so they’ll be very difficult I’m sure.
New Caledonia: 1. Ronan EUZEN (GK), 2. Mainon KAOUWI, 3. Jean Michel Denis POADAE, 4. Christ Roland PEI, 5. Ivann POUROURORO, 6. Maurice HAMU, 7. Ludovic BOIT, 8. Loic CAUNES, 9. Franck GELLENONCOURT, 10. Malik PAULET, 11. Jess POUARAIROUA, 12. Marcel PABOU, 13. Jone Ridge UE, 16. Arnaud LLAMBRICH (GK)
Coach: William BRET (FRA)
Vital Statistics: Vanuatu had 61 per cent of possession against Fiji. They had 15 corners but were perhaps unable to take full advantage of that statistic as they had just 44 shots, and only 12 were on target.
The Players: Morsen Luie put himself in the mix with a strong performance against Fiji. Joseph Hanghangkon looked more comfortable in the second game, while Don Mansale continues to be a creative force.
Coach Quote: “I watched New Caledonia against Fiji and they’re a very good side. They played well and won that game so we’ll have to perform at our best so we can win another game.”
Vanuatu: 1. Serge DANIEL (GK), 2. Terry MALAPA, 3. Don MANSALE, 4. Dudley DOMINIQUE, 5. Jacky JOHN, 6. Morsen LUIE, 7. Ben HUNGAI, 8. Pakoa RAKOM, 9. Donald AVOCK, 10. Ricky TUIGALOA, 11. Joseph HANGHANGKON, 12. Jimmy MALAP (GK), 13. George MAHIT
Coach: Louis DOMINIQUE (VAN)
Solomon Islands vs. New Zealand
Wednesday 10 February 2016
Kick-off: 5.30pm (local)
Referee 1: Ryan SHEPHEARD (AUS)
Referee 2: Amitesh BEHARI (FIJ)
Third Official: Darius TURNER (AUS)
Timekeeper: Jainut DEAN (FIJ)
Vital Statistics: 40 per cent of the Solomon Islands 55 shots against New Caledonia were on target.
The Players: Micah Lea’alafa continues to impress the crowd with his ball movement and skill. James Egeta was more dominant against New Caledonia than their previous match, while Coleman Makau performed exceptionally well and was rewarded for
his hustle with two goals.
Coach Quote: “I wouldn’t want to single out just one or two names as standouts in the squad. I think all 14 players, including Paul Huia who is yet to go on, are very important for us. I have to congratulate everyone, including management, I think they’re doing an amazing job.”
Solomon Islands: 1. Anthony TALO (GK), 2. Francis LAFAI, 3. Elliot RAGOMO, 4. George STEVENSON, 5. Samuel OSIFELO, 6. Robert LAUA, 7. James EGETA, 8. Jeffery BULE, 9. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 10. Jack WETNEY, 11. Coleman MAKAU, 12. Paul HUIA (GK), 13. Mathias SARU, 14. Alvin HOU
Coach: Juliano SCHMELING (BRA)
Vital Statistics: New Zealand proved possession isn’t everything as they won their game with just 40 per cent of possession and 12 less shots at goal than Tahiti.
The Players: Dylan Manickum showed vision and game intelligence as well as talent against Tahiti. He’s a real playmaker in the New Zealand squad. Elias Billeh again showed himself to be key to the Futsal Whites defence as the dealt with 31 shots, 12 on target yesterday.
Coach Quote: “We need to work hard in defence and keep possession. Our opponent doesn’t faze me, we’re two wins from two and it’s just the next game.”
New Zealand: 1. Ata ELAYYAN (GK), 2. Luc SAKER, 3. Tai BARHAM, 4. Stephen ASHBY-PECKHAM, 5. James VAUGHAN, 6. Kareem OSMAN, 7. Marvin EAKINS, 8. Daniel BURNS, 9. Jakub SINKORA, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Lucas CORDEIRO OSORIO DA SILVA, 12. Elias BILLEH (GK), 13. Miroslav MALIVUK, 14. Brayden LISSINGTON
Coach: Scott GILLIGAN (AUS)
Fiji vs. Tahiti
Wednesday 10 February 2016
Kick-off: 8pm (local)
Referee 1: Chris SINCLAIR (NZL)
Referee 2: Love Lui MALENARAVE (VAN)
Third Official: Francis RONI (SOL)
Timekeeper: Antony RILEY (NZL)
Vital Statistics: Fiji have scored in both their losses so far. They last met Tahiti in 2008, when they recorded a 2-0 victory.
The Players: Maciu Tuilau is a great presence on the court for Fiji. He’s tall and strong, but moves lightly with the ball – all qualities that are ideal for futsal.
Coach Quote: “Two games now we have scored and that will be my priority, that we have to score as well. But at the same time we have to keep the shape, be composed and try and reduce the lapses in concentration.”
Fiji: 1. Ulaiasi TAMANISAU (GK), 2. Prashant PRASAD, 3. Praveet SINGH, 4. Mira SAHIB, 5. Shelvin CHAND, 6. Shelvin CHAND, 7. Mohammed SHALMEEN, 8. Akitesh KUMAR, 9. Maciu TUILAU (GK), 10. Dhiraj KUMAR, 11. Altaaf SAHIB, 12. Anish KUMAR, 13. Kevin SINGH, 14. Suraj CHAND
Coach: Intiaz KHAN (FIJ)
Vital Statistics: Tahiti had 60 per cent of possession and 31 shots on goal against New Zealand but they need to turn those numbers into goals if they want the result they’re after against Fiji.
The Players: Smith Tino remains a vital presence in the squad. Utiera Pukoki is an excellent defender that can turnover a ball and launch a counter attack with speed and precision.
Coach Quote: “We won’t be holding back in our next match. We’re going to let our hair down and really show what we’re capable of.”
Tahiti: 1. Teva DUROT (GK), 2. Matana BEA, 3. Steeve WONG, 4. Tamanui TURIHONO, 5. Manea RATEAU, 6. Alexis TOOFA, 7. Gabriel KAVERA, 8. Utiera PUKOKI, 9. Anderson TINO, 10. Teivarii KAIHA, 11. Tane TAVE, 12. Smith TINO, 13. Heimana FAARAHIA, 14. Paul PITO (GK)
Coach: Jacob TUTAVAE (TAH)