Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
Fiji will head home satisfied with their performance returning to the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup for the first time in 12 years.
The Jerry Sam-coached side have beaten Tonga 12-0 in the play-off for 3rd place, at the Aorai Tini Hau stadium in Papeete.
Conditions were the trickiest of the week with a blustery wind blowing through the venue. The Tongans started strongly and had the first chance to score in the second minute when Sione Tutone headed just wide. Instead it was Fiji who hit the front when Rusiate Matarerega nodded home in the 4th minute.
A minute later Fiji doubled its advantage with a lovely finish from Gabiriele Matanisiga. Bruce Hughes then scored a double to put Fiji in control at the end of the first period.
Merrill Nand scored Fiji’s fifth after a loving passing move in the second minute of the second period but the Fijians who dominated possession struggle to break down a resolute Tongan defence. It took them until the 20th minute to score again through Madhwan Gounder and that was it for the period.
Tonga should have got on the board when clear through on goal Tevita Havili fired wide early in the final stanza. With 10 minutes to go the Tongan defence imploded conceded three goals to Matanisiga in just over two minutes. Matarerega then scored his second as Fiji hit double figures and ended the game with six goals.
The Fijians proved to be a very competitive team at the tournament. In round robin play they lost a tight tussle with the Solomon Islands 6-3 before thrashing Tonga 21-3 and then lost an epic duel with hosts Tahiti 5-3 after they had fought back from 3-1 down to level at 3-3 into the final period.
The Tongan team also showed improvement throughout the tournament. An 18-goal losing margin to the Fijians four days ago was reduced to 12 today. The players who all hail from the Ha’apai islands improved with each match and coach Penisimani Fatafehi is adamant they will take the learnings from this tournament home and grow stronger and more competitive next year.
Fiji: 12 Rusiate MATAREREGA 4’, 31’, Gabiriele MATANISIGA 5’, 27’, 28’, 29’, 35′, 36′, Bruce HUGHES 6’, 8’, Merrill NAND 14’, Madhwan GOUNDER 20’)