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Friday, November 02, 2007

In Sport: Confident Bilikiki Boys looks forward for what lies ahead

James Naka: Bilikiki Boys Beach Soccer heroRio de Janeiro - Nearly a year has passed since Solomon Islands Bilikiki Boys made a name for themselves at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup after they defeated African champions Cameroon in their opening match at the Copacabana.

But now the Bilikiki face their toughest test yet when they meet the might of defending World champions Brazil on their own sands on Match Day 1 on Friday 2nd November, 2007, 11:00 local Brazilian time.

Drawn in a group that includes Mexico and Russia, the signs are not good that the Bilikiki will equal their 12th placed finish achieved in 2006.

Preparations for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup - Rio de Janeiro 2007 have not been the best. With money and resources scarce, Bilikiki have had no warm-up matches and only arrived in Brazil less than three days out from the start of the tournament.

To make matters worse, the man who guided Bilikiki to the OFC Beach Soccer Championship - coach Airton Andrioli - was released from his contract following the elimination of the senior men's national team from the XIII South Pacific Games - Samoa 2007 whilst player Brian Feni fell ill in transit to the Copacabana and had to return to home.

Star striker James Naka believes Bilikiki Boys still have what it takes to cause an upset despite the raft of setbacks. "Confidentially speaking, it is true we are facing a major challenge but we are hopeful our defence can play well and we will make a good show against our opponents.

"We are not afraid of Brazil or anyone - anything in life is possible. I believe if we can take our chances, we can create pressure on the other teams. If we score one, we will can score more," Naka said.

Naka took the 2006 tournament by storm when his goals guided Bilikiki Boys home to their historic win over the African champions and the Kossa FC player is delighted to be back in Rio for his second tournament.

"Yes, I am very happy to be here in Brazil, it really is a brilliant feeling to be here again. There is a little bit of jetlag - we travelled for nearly two days to be here on six different aircraft, it was a very long trip. But we are here now and we are happy."

Bilikiki Boys coaching team is led by New Zealander Terry Van Dillen - a Kiwi involved with the New Zealand Police Force based in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara.

The New Zealander became involved following the departure of Airton Andrioli and is under no illusion of the mammoth task that lies ahead. "Yes, this is my first time in Brazil and I am proud to take part in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. It's a fantastic achievement reaching the finals twice - the environment is excellent, the stage impressive. I'm in a hurry to get underway - I think everybody in the squad is," Van Dillen says.

The Solomon Islands only previous taste of meeting a major world Beach Soccer power resulted in a 14-1 defeat at the hands of Madjer and his Portuguese team-mates following a 10-5 loss to eventual runners-up Uruguay.

Asking if there is any cause for concern about meeting the undisputed world champions, Van Dillen is adamant that the team will be ready.

"I am very hopeful of our chances. I think we can make a good impression on this tournament. I know Brazil are an excellent team but I am certain we will make chances to score in this match and play well," Van Dillen says.

When the affable Kiwi is asked whether or not he has designed a tactical approach that will bring the World Champions down, Van Dillen is coy. "Yes! That's all I can say to you on the surface. Yes."

The challenges in taking a country of under half-a-million people to the finals of a major FIFA event and getting results is one Van Dillen relishes. But he's realistic as well.

"The players are ready for this challenge. Ok, we have had the longest journey to get to Brazil and spent hours in airports and aircraft and it was tough going - but we're here now, we've had a look around and we're feeling refreshed for what lies ahead."

Source: Oceania Football

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