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Solomon Islands & Tahiti make Asia debut

Tahiti in action during Ashgabat 2017. Photo: Supplied

The Solomon Islands and Tahiti became the first two Oceania nations to represent the region in futsal at the Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games which kicked off in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on 16 September.

Oceania champions, the Solomon Islands’ Kurukuru, came within a match of qualifying for the quarter-finals and made history as they notched wins against two Asian opponents during their group games.

The side, coached by Jerry Sam, notched a 4-1 victory over Hong Kong to open their campaign before beating Chinese Taipei 4-3.

A victory over Turkmenistan would have seen the Kurukuru through to the next stage, however a 4-2 loss to the home side followed by a 2-1 loss to Vietnam meant the side needed the host side to beat Vietnam.

Unfortunately the Vietnamese side triumphed 1-0 to end Solomon Islands hopes of a quarter-final appearance.

Despite the disappointing end to the campaign, coach Jerry Sam was enthusiastic about the opportunity the competition afforded his side.

“We are a young team and it has been very hard for the boys,” he said.

“We have a lot of young players and only five experienced ones. We came here without some of our star players but it will stand us in good stead fore the next World Cup campaign.”

Tahiti marked their their first futsal competition outside Oceania with three losses.

The opening match was probably the side’s toughest, taking on eventual winners Islamic Republic of Iran and going down 16-1.

The only goal for Tahiti was scored be former coach Jacob Tatuvae, and current coach Heitapu Hunter said it was somewhat of a consolation prize to score against a side like Iran.

“It’s difficult when you play champions like them, but we came here to learn a lot from them,” he said.

“It’s the first time Tahiti has played futsal at this level so we’re already happy to be here and play our best against a stronger team.

“Iran are quick, they move the ball very fast. Of course you never like to start a tournament losing 16-1, but it gives us an opportunity to do some video lessons and we’re going to learn a lot from all our mistakes.”

Tahiti came back strong in their second match to give Kyrgyztan a run for their money, but were once again beaten this time by just 4-2.

Hunter said the match revealed a lot about his side and the need to truly capitalise on the opportunities when they are presented.

“Kyrgyztan had five opportunities and they scored four times. We had almost 20 opportunities and we scored just twice,” Hunter said.

The final match was against a strong Jordan side, who put three unanswered goals past Tahiti to secure a 3-0 win.

The 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games were held in Ashgabat from 16-29 September.



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