The Solomon Islands’ maiden FIFA Futsal World Cup appearance ended in a sobering 10-2 defeat to CONCACAF representatives Cuba on Tuesday – and to rub salt into the wound, coach Victor Wai'ia’s side now face hosts Brazil in their second match on Thursday. It goes without saying that the Oceania lads are the underdogs, but that does not mean they have given up hope even before kick-off.
The youngest team at the tournament, with an average age of just 18 years and six months, have travelled far too far, both literally and metaphorically, simply to run up the white flag now in the teeth of apparently invincible opponents. "It was a very long journey to get here. We were travelling for almost 40 hours, but the lads are ready for the next challenge,” Wai'ia exclusively told FIFA.com.
Wai'ia’s squad features the 12 youngest players at the tournament, but he has great faith in his youthful charges. "It’s true we have a young team, with very little experience at the international level. But I still believe working with such young kids is an advantage, because they’re carefree and eager to learn,” the coach argued.
Just qualifying for the FIFA Futsal World Cup in the first place came as a surprise, the affable Solomon Islands supremo stated. "We’ve only had futsal since 2002. We started with a U-16 league, before introducing a senior league just two months ago. No-one expected us to win Oceania qualifying and come here to Brazil, but my young players proved clever and strong."
The team thus arrived in football-obsessed Brazil with realistic expectations. The main aim is to gain experience and perhaps pull off a minor upset along the way, according to coach Wai'ia: "Our group opponents are all very experienced. Our players are here to learn on the world stage. That’ll help us develop futsal back home. If we happen to win a match, it would be a massive bonus."
That bonus win appears a remote prospect against the Brazilians, as the record books hardly favour the Solomon Islanders. Ahead of the current FIFA Futsal World Cup in Brazil, the host nation were responsible for four of the five biggest margins of victory over tournament newcomers: 29-2 against Guatemala (2000), 18-0 against Cuba (1996), 15-1 against Costa Rica (1992) and 12-1 against Kazakhstan (2000). Coach Wai'ia and his squad will do everything in their power to avoid inclusion in that less-than-flattering list.
Have Your Say
Can the Solomon Islands improve on their opening day result against Cuba when they take on host nation Brazil? What impression can the youngest team in Brazil make on the tournament?