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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Solomon Bilikiki boys made history by thrashing Vanuatu to qualify for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup

The Solomon Islands produced a piece of history after their 6-2 defeat of Vanuatu at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Qualifiers on the island of Moorea. The Solomon Bilikiki are the first team other than New Zealand or Australia - when they were part of the Oceania Football Confederation - to qualify for a FIFA world event.

For years the Solomon Islands have been described as the "Brazilians of the South Pacific" and now have the opportunity to see for themselves by qualifying for November's World Cup at the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

The Solomons outgunned a fatigued looking Vanuatu outfit holding them scoreless in the opening and closing periods of the match. The Bilikiki attack was spearheaded by the experience of Henry Koto and the pace and trickery of James Naka, both got on the scoresheet, as did Richard Anisua (2) and captain Gideon Omokirio.

Jean Emmanuel Maleb's double strike was the only reward for Vanuatu, after the match coach Juan Carlos Buzzetti conceded that perhaps the pre-tournament favourites had played their final a day earlier against Tahiti.

Buzzetti could thank his `keeper Chikau Mansale that the scoreline was not higher after the custodian produced a string of top-class saves in the first period, and maintained his high standards throughout the rest of the match. In fact Mansale was presented the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament award at the conclusion of the match. His opposite number Fred Hale was also in spectacular form thwarting wave-after-wave of Vanuatu attack.

"This is a dream come true for us" an ecstatic Vivian Wickham said after the game. Wickham (24) is perhaps the youngest coach in history to lead a team to a World Cup.

"Some of the boys had never left the country before, so to have achieved what we have in such a short period is amazing" Wickham added.

In the match for third place Tahiti outlasted the Cook Islands 12-4 in a highly entertaining match in atrocious conditions. The Cooks saved their best for last with a much improved performance against a wounded Tahitian team.

At 4-4 in the early stages of the second period an upset looked as though it could be on the cards but the hosts kicked clear scoring eight unanswered goals including five to tournament top scorer Teiva Izal. The mercurial Tahitian also picked up the Best Player of the Tournament accolade. While the youthful Cook Islands side were awarded the Fair Play Trophy.

Gusty winds and heavy rain plagued the final match day but the sun was shining on the Solomons who performed the Bilikiki dance for the fans in celebration of their win.

Source:Oceania Football Confederation

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