Monday, 6 October 2008 7:32 AM

In the Land of the Giants

The amount of Futsal courts that Solomon Islands and Brazil have could be described by the same word: 'countless'.

It is a apt for Brazil because there would simply be too many to count, and just as apt for Solomon Islands because there is simply nothing to count (the Mulit-Purpose Hall where Solomon Kurukuru train and play is many metres smaller than a standard Futsal court). This fact should give an appreciation of the challenge that Kurukuru faced when they entered the Nilson Nelson Hall in Brasilia today.

Local newspapers contained previews of the match with headlines such as 'David and Goliath' and 'In Search of a Miracle'. One unkindly featured a computer-generate image with fourty balls in the back of a Futsal goal - their prediction of the final score. The eventual tally, 0-21, was the second-largest defeat in the tournament's history, but for Kurukuru it was probably the highlight of their short Futsal careers. Not many people get to play against their sporting heroes, but today the young Solomon Islanders did and experience should prove to be invaluable.

'We lost today,' said Kurukuru coach VIctor Wai'ia, 'but the loss doesn't mean anything. As long as we can see that the boys have committed to play and use the skills that they have, then we are happy.'

For their part, Brazil were genuinely awesome; their stars Falcao, Shumacher and Lenisio ran rampant and goals rained into Junior Kogua's net. Kurukuru's first choice 'keeper, Junior Lioka, missed the game with a knee injury and might be considered lucky to avoid the barrage of shots that Kogua endured. Suggest that though, and his answer is an emphatic, 'of course I would have loved to play!'

Kogua was swamped after the game by Brazilian media asking what it was like to have so many goals scores against him. To in his credit, he took it in his stride, laughing later that it was a bit tedious, but, 'it was still good. Today helped be in becoming a better player. I know what the best is now and what I need to do to improve.'

While the defeat was worse on the scoreboard than the opening game against Cuba, Kurukuru were a markedly improved outfit. The defensive structure missing against Cuba appeared and it was simply a case of Brazil being too strong, fast and technically proficient in their attack.

The previous day the team watched Guatemala narrowly defeat Egypt 1-0 in a high-quality game and then reviewed their match against Cuba on DVD. Technical Advisor Scott Gilligan highlighted areas of improvement and told the boys to note Guatemala's structure against Egypt.

"I think in the Cuba game they were a little bit nervous because obviously this is big occasion, but they got the nerves out after that. The second half against Cuba they started to play the way that they can play, and today they started from the word go. Defence I thought was good and we kept possession quite well, although it's very hard to keep possession against Brazil," said Gilligan.

In attack, once again captain Elliot Ragomo was strong, but today he was joined by Jack Wetney, who impressed the crowd with his ability to beat Brazillian players with some fancy footwork. He got close - on one occasion agonisingly so - to scoring three goals in a performance that turned some heads.

"It was a great game to play; it was the best experience I've had and such an honour," said Wetney, who shares the same shirt number as Brazil's, and the world's, best player Falcao. "Since I was small I looked at him play - he was so great - and that's why I chose no.12. It was amazing for me to play on the same court him."

At full-time after the teams had shook each-other's hands, Falcao approached the young Kurukuru and they embraced one another, an acknowledgment of sorts from their hero that this was just the beginning for them.

It might also be prudent for all fans of Kurukuru to take note of the team that suffered the worst-ever defeat in the World Cup - again it was against Brazil, in the year 2000, the score 29-2. Who were they? Guatemala; the same team that now displays such a strong defensive aptitude.

A rest day is scheduled for Kurukuru tomorrow before what will be another big challenge when they meet Japan on Saturday. They will go into the match with the same 'no regrets' positivity that this tournament demands of them. Junior Lioka should be fit to play and there are no injury concerns. The team has greatly appreciated all messages received at the kurukuru@mail.org email address and anyone with time to write is encouraged to do so.

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