THE FUTSALROOS smashed Solomon Islands 7-0 this week but go into next month’s World Cup as underdogs as the sport still struggles to overcome its amateur status in Australia.
The friendly match was the Futsalroos last chance to impress before head coach Steven Knight finalises his World Cup squad, expected to be announced next week.
Archie Kazas, Futsalroos strength and conditioning coach, was eager to emphasise the importance of the team being physically ready for the World Cup.
“We don’t play in a professional league, the players are amateur,” Kazas explained.
“Everybody else in the world now train more than three or four times a week. Here in Australia, the players only train once a week and play once a week. It’s not enough.”
“We love to be a little bit more physical because it makes the players feel mentally and physically stronger.”
“But our boys have to learn how to use that strength and impose their physical dominance. We have to learn how to carry ourselves better.”
Futsalroos captain Giovenali was cautiously optimistic about what the World Cup would hold for the Australians.
“Considering it’s our last proper hit-out before we head away we wanted to try some things and it seemed to come off.”
“We’re trying to put in the hard yards now so that we can hopefully get some rewards at the World Cup.”
Giovenali also highlighted the sacrifices the entirely amateur squad have made to compete at the highest international level.
“Obviously we need days off work which jeopardises your job a lot of the time. Most of us are taking unpaid leave to go to the World Cup, which we are happy to do obviously, but it’s an example.”
“We’ve given up our weekends for the past four months. We’ve been training Saturdays and Sundays non-stop. We haven’t really had a life for the last few months, just dedicating ourselves to this World Cup.”
“You’ve got to chase your dream though, and for us this is our dream – you don’t want to miss it.”
The FIFA Futsal World Cup will be televised live on SBS2 and Giovenali welcomed the increased interest in the Futsalroos World Cup campaign.
“I think the problem has always been the lack of media support in terms of television and highlights.”
“Unless you’re at the stadiums it’s very hard to keep up to date with the results or even see any highlights.”
“Hopefully now people will see the game, enjoy it more, and it will bloom from there.”
The Australians started brightly in Wednesday night's match in Logan, south of Brisbane, and opened the scoring barely 30 seconds into the contest;
Daniel Fogarty’s long range effort benefitting from a sharp deflection off Jarrod Basger that sent Solomon Islands goalkeeper Anthony Talo the wrong way.
It proved to be the home side’s only joy in the opening stanza despite creating a raft of chances and enjoying a physical advantage against their Oceania opponents, who have also qualified for the World Cup to be held in Thailand.
Fernando De Moraes came close to extending the lead on several occasions following his ninth minute introduction, but it was the athletic glove work of Peter Spathis that saved the Futsalroos blushes on the counter-attack and ensured they held their lead at the break.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first before an explosive attacking burst saw the Australians net five times in four minutes.
Fogarty started the scoring spree when he netted his second on the back of a neat set-piece combination with captain Greg Giovenali in the 25th minute.
Giovenali, who also plays for Spirit FC in the New South Wales Super League, added his own name to the scoresheet a minute later when his thundering drive from half-way clattered in to the top left corner.
Nathan Niski benefitted from a fortunate bounce shortly after. Springing forward on the counter attack, Niski’s shot was initially denied by the diving Talo before back-spinning viciously into the goal.
Danny Ngaluafe combined with De Moraes to extend the lead even further before De Moraes, who enjoyed a short loan spell at A-League club New Zealand Knights in 2006, pounced on a defensive error to make good on his first half promise.
With three minutes remaining Keenan Duimpies finalised the rout after Talo advanced to the halfway line; Duimpies lobbing his shot over the keeper from well inside his own half.
The impressive result continues a run of form for the Futsalroos, who recently claimed the three match Trans Tasman Cup series against New Zealand in Auckland.
However, assistant coach Rob Varela, who took charge of the side against Solomon Islands in the absence of head coach Knight, wasn’t getting carried away with the scoreline.
“I’m happy with the way we played in the second half, not so happy with the way we defended in the first half,” Varela said.
“I wasn’t very happy with our passing in the first half, it was pretty sloppy. We gave possession away which meant that they had most of the play and we had to defend hard.”
“In the second half we controlled the ball a little bit better. So we were happy with that and it projected itself not only in the amount of defending we had to do but the amount of fouls we conceded.”
“We’ve been working very hard on the physical fitness side of things,” Varela explained, “I think we’re a fitter team than Solomon Islands, more used to playing on the international size court, and I think that told on them in the end.”
Varela wouldn’t be drawn on individual player performances but insisted that qualifying through the Asian confederation would serve the squad well at the tournament.
“Qualifying through OFC, and no disrespect to the other nations, but it wasn’t a hard task," he said. "Now we’ve really got to do well to qualify through Asia and it has its advantages – we are match hardened.”
“It’s a team game and I don’t like to single out individual players but we’ve got experienced players and a core of young guys coming through and it’s up to the team to do well in Thailand, not any one individual.”
The Futsalroos will fly out of Australia on October 20 to finalise their preparations before kicking off their World Cup tilt against Italy at Niminutr Stadium in Bangkok.
Futsalroos World Cup Group Fixtures:
Italy v Australia, Friday November 2 (8:55pm AEDT)
Australia v Mexico, Monday November 5 (8:55pm AEDT)
Australia v Argentina, Thursday November 8 (8:55pm AEDT)
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