New Zealand Are Crowned OFC Futsal Champions As Solomon Islands Take 3rd
New Zealand have won the OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023 and will represent the Oceania region at the 2024 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Uzbekistan after a hard-fought win over Tahiti.
As was to perhaps be expected, the early exchanges were high on intensity but low on chances as both sides took their turns to try and work the other out.
Rahan Ali almost gave the Kiwis the perfect start when well placed only a couple of yards out but from Dylan Manickum’s cenntre, he could only connect with the heel of his boot and the ball squirmed away from the goal.
Three minutes later however, the net did ripple. New Zealand took advantage of a lapse inn Tahitian concentration and Stephen Ashby-Peckham lashed high into the top corner after being teed up from a quick kick-in.
From then on Tahiti worked hard to find a way back into the final. Oliver Hirihiri went close when his right-footed effort flashed over the bar, before Akareva Riaria saw one attempt saved by goalkeeper Mike Antamanov and the resulting follow-up crash off the crossbar.
Keanu Maihuri was then presented with a excellent chance to draw level but his near-post attempt was well saved.
Early in the second period New Zealand came within a whisker of doubling their lead. Rahan Ali turned his marker well and his low effort smacked off not one but both posts, somehow staying out and keeping Tahiti within a goal.
Ashby-Peckham had a glorious opportunity to grab his second a minute later but side-footed against the frame of the goal as Tahiti survived another scare.
A second did arrive for New Zealand with just under half an hour played. Dylan Manickum broke on the counter attack and after his effort was well saved by Puarea Roe, Jordan Ditfort was on hand to tuck away the rebound.
A couple of minutes later and it was 3-0. Manickum again involved when his effort deflected back into the path of Thomas Picken who made no mistake from a couple of yards out.
With Tahiti pushing forward in search of a foothold in the game, New Zealand took full advantage.
Captain Dylan Manickum won the ball on the half-way line and with Tahiti having pulled their goalkeeper, calmly rolled the ball into an empty net to confirm victory for his side a ticket to Uzbekistan next year for the World Cup.
A consolation for Tahiti proved elusive, Vincent Tinomoe’s close-range flick seemingly destined for the net before being cleared off the line.
Another goal was added to the tally but at the other end, Hamish Grey finding space in a central position and slotting into the corner to put full stop on proceedings.
New Zealand: 5 (Stephen ASHBY-PECKHAM 6, Jordan DITFORT 28, Thomas PICKEN 29, Dylan MANICKUM 33, Hamish GREY 39)
Solomon Islands skipper Elliott Ragomo has ended his decorated Futsal career with his side claiming bronze at the OFC Futsal Nations Cup final in Auckland.
The Solomon Islands have beaten Fiji 5-3 in the third placed playoff with Ragomo announcing to his teammates this would be his final match for the Kurukuru.
Ragomo appeared in four World Cups since his debut in Brazil in 2008 and the 32-year-old is the only Pacific Islander to play futsal in Brazil’s elite club competition.
Fiji had a glorious chance to take the lead in the 6th minute when Bruce Hughes was put through one on one with the keeper to meet but Cliff Sasau made a super save.
Rusiate Matarerega then had a rasping shot which Sasau spilled only for Dave Radrigai’s follow up effort being saved by the Solomon Islands keeper.
The Solomons Islands took the lead against the run of play in the 10th minute through Charlie Otainao who poked the ball past Beniamino Mateinaqara in the Fijian goal.
A couple of minutes later the Fijian keeper denied Otainao before Fiji doubled their lead with an absolute cracker from Elis Mana in the 16th minute. His right footed shot curled off the inside of the far post into the back of the net.
Setareki Hughes almost pulled a goal back for the Fijians a couple of minutes in to the second half but his shot thundered against the post before the Solomons Islands failed to capitalise on a couple of guilt edged chances to extend their lead a minute later.
The Fijians did get on the board six minutes into the second half through Bruce Hughes who bundled the ball past Sasau.
With 10 minutes remaining Mateinaqara made a stunning save to deny Owen Bunabo the Solomon Islands third goal.
Hughes then scored his second to tie up the scores with five minutes remaining. It was a thunderous left footed shot.
Fijian fans were still celebrating when Elis Mana scored his second, a brilliant individual effort less than a minute later to restore the Solomon Islands lead. His hat-trick followed a minute later with a thunderbolt into the right hand corner before Marlon Sia scored in the last couple of minutes to sew up the victory for the Kurukuru.
Fijian captain Filipe Baravilala scored a late penalty for a consolation goal for the Solomon Islands.
Fiji: 3 (Bruce HUGHES 27’,
35’, Filipe BARAVILALA 39)
Solomon Islands: 5 (Charlie OTAINAO 10’, Elis MANA 16’, 36’, 37’, Marlon SIA 38’)