Thursday, 17 July 2008 8:53 AM

Bilikiki Kicks off Beach Soccer World Cup Campaign

The Solomon Islands kick off the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup today when they play Italy in the opening match of the tournament at Stade du Prado in Marseille, France.

The Bilikiki Boys have been training for the past few days on the sand turf in Marseille to get used to the new environment and team manager Reuben Oimae said the side is fired up for the challenge that lies ahead.

It is the Bilikiki Boys third FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and their group features Portugal, El Salvador and Italy. The Solomon's will need to finish in the top two in their group to progress to the Semi Finals.

THE PAST

Solomon Islands are very much the transcendent beach soccer force in Oceania. The Bilikiki Boys have won the last two continental titles, and have not been the whipping boys that many expected on the world stage. At the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio 2006, they beat Cameroon 5-2 in their opener before comfortable defeats by Uruguay and Portugal sealed their elimination. Last year, grouped with the eventual finalists and Russia, they went home winless, although they put up an admirable fight against the Mexicans, James Naka scoring a hat-trick en route to a 6-3 loss.

THE PRESENT

Unable to stage a qualifying tournament in time for the world finals in July, the OFC nominated Solomon Islands to be its representative in Marseille due to the side's regional dominance over the previous two years.

THE FUTURE

Solomon Islands, affectionately known as the 'Brazil of the South Pacific', will be eager to advance from the group phase of a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for the first time in Marseille. With James Naka, a technically supreme forward renowned for scoring acrobatic volleys, in their ranks, and following their impressive development on the beach soccer circuit, there is genuine hope from back home that they can achieve their objective.

THE GAMES

Thursday July 17th Stade du Prado 14.45 (Local French Time) 23.45 (Local Solomon Time) Italy v Solomon Islands

Saturday July 19th Stade du Prado 16.15 (local French Time) 01.15 (Local Solomon Time) Solomon Islands v Portugal

Monday July 21 Stade du Prado 16.15 (Local French Time) 01.15 (Local Solomon Time) Solomon Islands v El Salvador

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