OFC: The Solomon Islands have announced their extended squad for the upcoming FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania and are gearing up towards a training camp in Australia next month.
Known as the Kurukuru, the extended squad consists of 17 home-based players, including Raphael Le’ai, Micah Lea’alafa and Clifford Misitana, while James Egeta and Jack Wetney will join the team from Australia.
The squad will be led by Brazilian-born head coach Vinicius Leite and assisted by Francis Lafai.
On July 16, the players will travel to the Gold Coast and quarantine for 14 days before beginning their preparations that will include two sessions a day.
The Kurukuru will stay at Southern Cross University and play seven matches during the camp.
Their mornings will see the squad undergo strength and conditioning with coach Alex Argolo focusing on agility, power, speed and flexibility followed by training sessions on technical and tactical elements of the game.
In between, they will assess their future opponents with video analysis and have access to gym and swimming pool facilities for recovery.
Leite said the squad was ready to begin their journey.
“The players are excited, some players are going to their fourth World Cup but still get butterflies in their stomach,” he said.
“It’s not every day that you get to play in a FIFA Futsal World Cup. We feel privileged and honoured to be amongst the 24 best teams in the world.
“They know they have to work hard to secure their spot in the team first and then train harder to perform well in front of the world but mentally they are all prepared.
“This month-long camp I’m hoping our players will get in shape, lose weight and return to the peak of their performance, which is how they were at the qualifiers.
“To be the only Pacific Island nation at the event gives us a responsibility to represent and achieve the best results we can.”
The Kurukuru are the current OFC Futsal Nations Cup champions after beating New Zealand in the 2019 final to secure their spot at the global event.
Recently, it hasn’t been a narrow road for the Kurukuru who have been heavily affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
“I understand COVID-19 has impacted every team but it has had a bigger impact on us I guess,” Leite said.
“The only stadium they have had to train in is being used for quarantine purposes so they have been training on an outdoor basketball court.
“It’s better than nothing and regardless they have turned up every day to train with the motivation and desire to improve, represent the nation and region as best they can.”
The Kurukuru have been drawn in Group C for the World Cup, alongside Thailand, Portugal and Morocco. They are scheduled to open their campaign against Morocco on September 13 (LTU time).