12 Aug 2014

Sport: Oceania nations eager to show improvements in Futsal Invitational

1:05 pm on 12 August 2014

The Oceania Futsal Invitational gets underway in New Caledonia on Tuesday evening with local teams hoping to wrestle back the title from their Asian counterparts.

Last year's event was the first time countries from outside the Oceania Confederation had been included, with Australia beating Malaysia in the final and New Zealand the highest placing local team in third.

The Futsalroos have skipped this year's event along with four time winners the Solomon Islands.

Malaysia coach Maizal Marzuki told OFC TV it's crucial they start well, beginning with tonight's opening game against the Futsal Whites.

"I bring three new players and I hope they can play with my instruction. The New Zealand team have good players and good attack and I hope my players play well and I hope we win the first match - the first match is very important".

Oceania Football's Futsal and Beach Soccer Development Officer Paul Toohey says countries in the region are starting to put more time and effort into the five a side game.

"Most member associations are now recognising that futsal and beach soccer are perhaps their best opportunities to do well on the world stage and I think we can include Vanuatu now, who are slowly but surely building a futsal programme from grassroot through youth and through to the elite level. Tahiti I would say are a real standout. They understand the long-term vision - what it takes to have success at the top level - and I think we just have to look at the success of the Tiki Toa and the whole hosting of the Beach Soccer World Cup last year".

Malaysia play New Zealand first up on Tuesday night before Vanuatu take on Tahiti.