Solomon Kurukuru's 2-7 loss to Japan was one of mixed emotions. The unquestionable high was the half-time score of 2-3 against a quality opponent at the highest level; the young side, battered by Brazil only two days earlier played as well as they ever have.The lows included a serious ankle injury to Captain Elliot Ragomo and not being able to sustain their 'A' game over the full contest. Still, as numerous commentators in Brazil have noted, this is a team with talent that plays the game in the right spirit. It is not a matter of 'if' but 'when' their full potential is reached and they start to challenge quality opponents.
Japan started the game on the front foot and soon found themselves three goals ahead after goals to Kanayama, Kogure and Komiyaya. The Solomon team though soon found its stride and began to play some expansive counter-attacking Futsal. Ragomo, along with Jack Wetney, led from the front and brought the crowd to their feet on a number occasions with foot-skills that their heroes from Brazil would be pleased to possess. After many close chances, Ragomo baffled the Japanese defenders close to their goal, which led to Maeda hurried attempt to clear the ball end up in his won goal.
A minute later Ron Ginio finished off some Wetney magic, knocking the ball in at the back post after the Kurukuru finessed the ball past two Japanese defenders got a clear shot. It was off-target, but Ginio was in the right place at the right time and got what he had been hoping for since arriving in Brazil.
'It was like unbelievable; a dream come true,' said Ginio, 'I didn't score a goal in OFC World Cup qualifying tournament and my aim was to at least score a goal in the World Cup, so it's just amazing.'
It was an upbeat Kurukuru dressing room at half-time as the boys took advice from coach Victor Wai'ia and Technical Advisor Scott Gilligan. Their two late goals had given them the ascendancy and there was a feeling that if Solomon Islands could keep it up a major upset loomed.
Japan though held strong and unanswered goals to Fujii and Osodo effectively put he game out of Kurukuru's reach. Any chance of a comeback was further hampered by Ragomo's injury. In what was his best match of the tournament, the sight of him being carried off the court on a stretcher was a sad sight for the Kurukuru faithful. He was taken to a nearby hospital for a precautionary X-Ray, but is confident of playing on Monday against Russia.
"Today's game was a tough one for the boys," said coach Wai'ia, "but they proved today that they can play. They have confidence and they have learnt a lot of things form this game too. We should have ulitised all of our chances, but so far they play to their best and that's the wonerful thing about it. And they had a lot of fun too. Now I think we'll keep things going, we have one game left, we'll keep continuing to work on our defence and our finishing."
The already-daunting prospect of facing Russia will be made all the more difficult for Kurukuru with Ragomo not 100% fit, first-choice goalkeeper Junior Lioka on the injured list and James Egeta, who conceded a second yellow card for the tournament, suspended. The three are usually starters for Kurukuru, but Moffat Sikwa'ae, who captained Solomon Islands in Ragomo's absence, believes that the team will respond to the challenge "if we work to together as a team we will be able to do it. I look forward to the next game, we must try to win it; anything is possible," he said.