The Solomon Islands are determined to knock New Zealand off their perch heading into the OFC Futsal Nations Cup starting in Auckland New Zealand this weekend.
The traditional OFC powerhouse finished runners-up to New Zealand in last year’s edition in Fiji which was not a World Cup qualifier and arrive with a new look squad, and a new coach, England’s Damon Shaw.
The Kurukuru are in Group B alongside New Caledonia, Tahiti and Samoa and open their campaign on Sunday evening (7pm NZT) against New Caledonia.
“We’re ready. We’re more ready than we’ve ever been, I think. The last six months has been full of experiences for the boys. Good and bad. But all of them have helped us to get ready for this tournament. We’re just so excited to be here and we can’t wait for Sunday’s opening match.” Shaw said.
The Futsal World Cup is held every four years with next year’s edition in Uzbekistan. The Solomon Islands first represented Oceania in 2008 in Brazil and qualified for subsequent World Cups in 201 in Thailand, 2016 in Colombia and 2021 in Lithuania.
(The Solomon Islands side is fully focussed on winning the OFC Futsal Nations Cup which kicks off at Bruce Pulman Arena in Auckland on Sunday NZT)
Shaw’s side contains a real mix of youth and experience, and the English coach thinks he’s got the balance right.
“I’m happy with it, I’ve always said from the start experience is going to be key. So the aim of this year has been to get the young players up to speed with experience. And that’s why we’ve played some top teams. (They had a closely fought series with Australia in July) The older players are balancing out given their experience and hopefully passing it on to the kids and helping guide us through. We have got some very young players, but they’ve played a lot of games on this year.
Shaw believes it will be a very even competition this week.
“Yeah, all the nations will be tough, and we’ve played against a few of them in April. None of them are easy games. We were challenged in that tournament early on. And from what I’ve seen, all the countries are investing and developing and catching up. There’s no sort of standout team here. I think every team has got a chance to qualify.” Shaw said.
Captain Elliott Ragomo is a veteran of four World Cups and the 32-year-old is confident of a strong showing over the next week.
“Well, we’ve prepared a long time for this tournament. And I think we have some very young players in the team and also some old boys, but I think we are really looking forward for this tournament and we’re excited to be here and ready to kick start.” Ragomo said.
(Solomon Islands captain Elliott Ragomo will be trying to reach his 5th FIFA Futsal World Cup)
There’s no short of motivation for the Solomon Islanders who were stunned 6-2 by New Zealand in last year’s final.
Yeah, we’ve prepared well, for this and are just looking forward to starting on Sunday. We’ve worked on a lot of stuff during the past year. We just want to kickstart the campaign and see how we go taking it one game at a time and use all the players we have.”