To round off the opening day in Rio de Janeiro, the Bilikiki Boys caused an upset with a display of beach soccer that belied their embracing of the sport just a few short months ago. By imposing their unrefined yet mightily effective style, the islanders never allowed Cameroon to wrest control of the encounter.
''I really don't understand what happened to my players," admitted the Cameroonian coach Joseph-Antoine Bell. They seemed so nervous that they simply did whatever came into their heads. In view of all the chances we had, there is plenty of cause for regret, as we could still have won the game without actually playing well.''
As might have been expected, it was more a football match played on sand than a bona fide beach soccer encounter. What with two teams prepared to run and run despite the Brazilian heat, the early minutes were particularly frenzied. However, all that changed in fifth minute when, one on one with the Cameroonian goalkeeper, James Naka flicked the ball over his opponent before scoring into an empty net. It was a fine goal and one which will go down in history as the Solomons' first at the finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
At the first break, with his side by then two behind, Joseph-Antoine Bell read his players the riot act. The former international goalkeeper urged his players to fight back and above all demanded greater defensive discipline.
But the rest of the match was to follow pretty much the same pattern as the opening twelve minutes. Although the Cameroonians did their level best to impose their own more aerial style on the proceedings, the Oceania champions lost none of their effectiveness. Moreover, in James Naka, they possess a first-rate striker who, as well as scoring all five of his team's goals, looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.
But in the last few minutes of the game, the Cameroonians finally decided to show why they are known as the Indomitable Lions, with a pair of late goals from Etienne Ngiladjoe and Benoit Eyoum making the defeat a little easier to digest.
''What we've just achieved is so incredible," declared a beaming Solomon Islands coach Eddie Omokirio. "We were unknown a few weeks ago, but beach soccer is allowing us to shine. It really is a dream come true.''
Referees: Joao Almeida (POR), Thomasz Grzelinski (POL), Michele Conti (ITA)