A minute into Solomon Kurukuru's 10-2 loss to Cuba, it looked like an unlikely victory could be in the making.Captain Elliot Ragomo sliced through two Cuban defenders and then passed to Jack Wetney, who returned the ball to Ragomo at the far post to complete Solomon Islands' first goal at World Cup level. The crowd quickly took a shine to the young side in front of them and spontaneous chants of 'Solomon! Solomon!' echoed throughout Nilson Nelson Hall.
But today there would be no fairy-tale start for the Kurukuru, just another opportunity to learn and improve and behave in a way that earns them new fans everyday in Brazil, win, lose or draw. Cuba soon gained control of the game, forced errors from the Solomon players, and then - importantly - capitalised on them to go into half-time with a comfortable 5-1 lead.
The beginning of the second half saw a more resolved Kurukuru take the field and it is something that that coach Victor Wai'ia would like to see replicated in Thursday game against the giants of Futsal, Brazil.
"We need to be more patient and wait for clear opportunities, we will work on this in training tomorrow," he said, "however, I was happy with the way that Moffat Sika'ae, Ragomo and Wetney played in counter-attack, and Ron Ginio was very good in defence when he came on."
While Kurukuru improved on the field, Cuba was still able to increase their lead freely, the score at one stage ballooning out to 10-1. So, a big loss, but not one that can take the smiles of the faces of the team, "I just feel happy to play here," said Philip Houtarau, "the World Cup is such a high standard. I'm not disappointed about the game because this is our first time at the World Cup and we're learning so many new things every day."
As the game ended, Ragomo's dream start was complemented with close to a dream finish. His second goal, in part created by some good work off the ball by Wetney, who drew a defender away for the captain's to get a clean shot, was soon followed by a penalty shot. Unfortunately it was batted away by the Cuban goalkeeper, denying a hat-trick.
Dreams almost turned to nightmares for Ragomo mid-way through the half when his troublesome ankle was aggravated in a tackle and he was forced form the field in agony. Thankfully for his team, he soon returned. "It was amazing to score in the World Cup," he said, "I'm happy, but it was because of good team work that it happened. The ankle is a bit painful, but it wasn't going to stop me from playing today and it won't stop me against Brazil."
It was an unusually quiet bus trip back to the hotel for the Kurukuru boys as they reflected on all the hard work and preparation that they put into this big game and the hollow feeling that defeat can bring. They might be young, but they have a dedication to Futsal that will see them grow more confident with every game played in this tournament; they are in the real world now and will respond to the challenge.
"He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying," said philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The good news is - as displayed daily by various impromptu routines performed around the hotel to the sounds of their MP3 music players - they can already dance, so it must only be a matter of time before the Kurukuru take to sky.