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Kurukuru impress on Asian Indoor Games debut

The Kurukuru came within one win of progressing to the knockout stage of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games last month.

Drawn in Group A of the event, the Oceania champions took on Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam over the course of the group stage, winning two and losing two.

The opening match, which also marked the side’s debut in the event, saw Jerry Sam’s side take a convincing 4-1 win over Hong Kong.

“I thought we played well. We got off to a good start which helped us,” Sam said after the match.

“Being Oceania’s first ever representatives at these games is an honour for us. But I didn’t feel nervous before our first game. I have experience of going to the world cup so I know big tournaments.

Next on the schedule was Chinese Taipei, who put up a fight before Solomon Islands managed to down them 4-3. The victory was pleasing for Sam as it put his side within one win of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

However the third match in Group A was against the home side, Turkmenistan and the Oceania side were preparing for a tough one.

“I think we can cope with it,” Sam said of the atmosphere the home crowd was expected to generate.

“Many of my players have experience of playing at the World Cup. For the new ones, it will be good for them to get this experience.

“Turkmenistan will be very tough, but we will prepare well for it.”

Despite an impressive performance from the Kurukuru it was the home side finishing up the match triumphant with a 4-2 victory.

Turkmenistan coach Kyohei Nakamura said studying their opponent proved key to his side’s success.

“We studied them and found some weaknesses in their team and working on them, mostly on the open side of their play,” he said.

Losing their first match was tough for the Solomon Islands side, with Sam singling out the drop in concentration which came in the last five minutes as being key to their defeat.

However with one last match to go, the quarter-finals were still in their sights.

Vietnam however had other sides with some impressive defending keeping the Solomon Islands off the scoreboard for most of the match.

“We played a fantastic match, especially defending, but we conceded a stupid goal in the final second,” Vietnam’s Spanish coach Miguel Rodrigo said.

A slim hope of progression remained for Solomon Islands, with Turkmenistan needing to beat Vietnam soundly.

“We are not surrendering yet,” Sam said. “We can only keep our fingers crossed and wait and see.”

However luck wasn’t on the Kurukuru’s side as Vietnam notched a narrow 1-0 victory to end the Oceania nation’s hopes of progressing.

Sam said despite the disappointing end, there were plenty of positives for his side to take from the competition.

“We are a young team and it has been very hard for the boys,” he said.

“We have a lot of young players and only five experienced ones. We came here without some of our star players but it will stand us in good stead for the next World Cup campaign.

“Overall I am pleased because we have written some Solomon Islands history in coming here and beating two big Asian teams. We can go home happy.”

The futsal event at Ashgabat 2017 ran from 16-23 September with Iran earning the gold medal after beating Uzbekistan 7-1 in the final.

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