The Solomon Islands youth men’s team and the New Zealand youth women’s team have booked their tickets to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires after securing clean sweeps in the OFC Youth Futsal Tournament at Bruce Pulman Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, this afternoon.
Solomon Islands – who have a bye on the last day of action for the men tomorrow – were the first nation to qualify after winning all six of their matches over the past three days.
Solomon Islands coach Stanley Puairana was overjoyed about the huge milestone is side has reached and praised his young players for battling to the final whistle.
“I feel so excited and I want to thank the boys for giving 100 per cent for our nation and for our people. Overall the boys did excellent. They have made our country so proud,” he said.
New Zealand qualified after the last matches for the women at 2:30pm, wrapping up their tournament with six wins against Tonga, Samoa and invitational team AFF Futsal.
New Zealand coach Ronan Naicker was proud of his team’s performance throughout the entire competition and is looking forward to representing the nation and region in Buenos Aires next year.
“I’m really, really happy. I’m really proud of the girls and I’m happy that they managed to get through and qualify,” he said.
“Representing New Zealand and Oceania at the Youth Olympics is an exciting opportunity. We’ll reassess after this and start to focus on next year but yeah, this tournament has been great.”
Although Tonga and Samoa fell short of qualification, both coaches were pleased with the effort and skill displayed over the past three days.
“I’ve absolutely loved it. I think this has been a fantastic experience and the girls played their hearts out today. We had five sessions together before this tournament and look what we’ve done. Samoa should be proud of the girls,” Samoa coach Valerio Raccuglia said.
“It was a very competitive tournament and I can’t explain how happy I am for the team. They did their best and they really improved a lot. I’m very hopeful about the future of futsal in Tonga,” Tonga coach Manu Tu’alau said.
After receiving the last-minute call-up to join the tournament, AFF Futsal coach Maxine Cooper was very pleased that her side made the most of the unique opportunity and used the experience to showcase their ability and develop their game.
“I’m so proud. For a team that played together for the first time three days ago, they were phenomenal. They’re an awesome team and I’m really proud of them,” she said.
The women’s prizegiving followed after the final whistle, crowning New Zealand champions. Both Golden Boot and Golden ball were awarded to New Zealand’s Macey Fraser and the Golden Gloves award was taken home by New Zealand’s Rylee Godbold.
Although Solomon Islands’ impressive run has ended the Youth Olympics dream for the six other nations in the men’s competition, tomorrow’s last games will be played for pride.
New Zealand added two more wins to their tally and coach Marvin Eakins is feeling confident about securing silver tomorrow.
“We want to come second. We want to win the rest of our games but we’re also looking at getting these guys better so they can go on to represent for the senior Futsal Whites and go into the National League,” he said.
“We’re looking at the next step for these guys but we also need to finish strong and Vanuatu are a tough opposition who I know will make life difficult for us tomorrow. We’re looking forward to it.”
New Caledonia coach Vincent Vasapolli was disappointed to concede to New Zealand in their first match of the day but said the tough encounter was a good learning experience for his side.
“I think it was a good challenge for us but we were very tired and it was difficult to stay in the spirit. It’s a good experience for us. It was an interesting game and we can learn a lot from this,” he said.
Tonga coach Soane Mailangi was heart-broken to fall to another team but is feeling confident about getting their first points on the table when they meet American Samoa in their last match tomorrow.
“Before we even started this game we knew Solomon Islands were the best team in the tournament. We’re one of the bottom teams but we tried our best and I think we did well in defence and attack. We got two goals and that’s really amazing for me. I’m proud of the team and I’m looking for to playing American Samoa tomorrow,” he said.
Although he was disappointed not to claim three points against American Samoa, Samoa coach Horst Petana was pleased his side lifted for their game against New Zealand.
“We’re really disappointed about our result against American Samoa. It could have easily gone our way. It’s frustrating but the boys played their hearts out and we couldn’t have done much better against New Zealand,” he said.
After a heavy loss to Solomon Islands this morning, Vanuatu coach Richard Lehi was in higher spirits after securing another three points in their match against American Samoa.
“I’m happy with the performance of the boys and the results today were what we expected. We’re trying our best now to secure the second spot and that will be a great result for the boys. We will try our best to play a good game against New Zealand and claim that second place,” he said.
American Samoa coach Tunoa Lui was disappointed with the loss against Vanuatu but after securing a draw against Samoa, he’s feeling confident about challenging Tonga tomorrow.
“I give credit to the boys for working really hard. It’s a tough tournament playing every day but they have improved a lot. Hopefully we can improve even more in our game tomorrow. It is very good to get that draw against Samoa, it’s lifted the boys’ motivation so hopefully that carries into tomorrow against Tonga,” he said.
View the match schedule here