FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011 - OFC Qualifier Tahiti
26 Feb 2011
Psychological first strike by Solomon Island
The Bilikiki team will take a confidence advantage going into tomorrow’s final of the OFC Beach Soccer Championship after they beat Tahiti 4-1 during their group match in Papeete this afternoon. With both teams having already qualified for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup play-off match after knocking Fiji out of the tournament, today’s game provided both coaches with an opportunity to rotate their squad while the players themselves threw in plenty of scissor-kicks and acrobatics to entertain the fans.
The hosts had the best early chances with Tearii Labaste’s penalty kick saved by goalkeeper Fred Hale while captain Naea Bennett watched his header strike the crossbar midway through the first period. But it was Solomons’ striker McPhillip Aisa who scored the opener after 11 minutes with a free-kick from 12 yards out. Nicholas Muri floated one over Tahiti goalkeeper Franck Revel seconds later to give his side a 2-0 lead going into the first break. The Solomonian player achieved the only goal of the second period as well, again lofting the ball perfectly into the top corner. Tahiti continued to have opportunities but couldn’t get past the outstanding Hale, who is one of three in the Solomon Islands squad to have appeared in four consecutive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups.
The veteran goalkeeper eventually let in Patrick Tepa’s penalty kick for a consolation goal in the dying stages only after Robert Laua had grabbed the Bilikiki’s fourth goal, and his fourth of the tournament.
Tahiti captain Naea Bennett was unfazed by the loss and says his side will come out stronger tomorrow with so much to play for. “Today was about trying different things, including playing our second goalkeeper to give him more game time, but tomorrow it will be all about the win. We kept up with the pace today but just couldn’t quite finish our chances. They are a good team for sure, but we will be confident in the final.”
Bilikiki coach Henry Koto agrees there will be plenty of difference between the two games. “The boys were relaxed today and tried lots of scissor kicks and tricks,” said Koto. “But tomorrow it is a final and we know Tahiti will come out stronger.
The 34-year-old says it means everything to his players to qualify for another World Cup. “Most of them have been there before and we all want to qualify again, for the team and for the fans back home as well. We will be at our best tomorrow.”