The first qualifier for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 will be known by the end of the week with the Oceania qualifiers taking place in Suva, Fiji, commencing today.
Eight nations - Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – are competing, with only the winner to qualify for Thailand 2012.
The victor will follow in the footsteps of the Solomon Islands who represented Oceania at the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Brazil.
The eighth edition of the tournament features more teams than ever before, and it will be the first time a two-group format has been used to decide Oceania’s Futsal champion. The competition format places the top two sides from each group in the semi-finals, with the final to be played on Friday.
The Solomon Islands squad, known as the Kurukuru, are the only nation other than Australia to have their name on the trophy, and have won the last three titles. They are favoured to earn their fourth straight championship and coach Dickson Kadau has decided to make few changes to a formula that has proved so successful.
"My players have given their best in training and I am confident their hard work will bring them the results they want," said coach Dickson Kadau, with his team facing New Caledonia, Tahiti and Tuvalu in the group stage. “Hard work has been the main ingredient in our preparations and all the players have displayed their desire to win with their performances in training.”
The fight for semi-final spots in Group A is likely to be even more intriguing as three of the sides have realistic aims of taking the title. The draw has thrown together Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu – who have all finished among the top placings in previous tournaments. They will be joined by Kiribati, a nation making its first ever appearance at the OFC Futsal Championship.
New Zealand will look to star striker Daniel Koprivcic, fresh from winning the 2011 OFC O-League with Auckland City and being named the tournament’s best player, for inspiration in attack.