Vanuatu Futsal team finished in sixth place of the OFC Nation’s Cup Competition in New Caledonia after losing to Fiji 6-4 in the 5th/6th place playoff.
Iosefo Verevou opened the scoring for Fiji with an accurate low drive at the near post from Shahil Dave’s kick-in in the 3rd minute but Vanuatu produced a swift reply courtesy of Rhydley Napau.
Midway through the first period Kevin Donald took advantage of an uncharacteristic defensive error by Fijian skipper Setareki Hughes before Verevou grabbed his second and Anish Khem followed up for the Fijians’ third as the lead seesawed between the two Melanesian rivals.
David Kalo pounced on another defensive mistake to level the scores but Verevou had the last say in the opening half by completing his hat-trick to give his side a narrow advantage at the break.
Verevou turned provider early in the second period by setting up Kailova Tivulu at the back post with a pinpoint diagonal pass.
Dave smashed against the crossbar and Verevou forced a diving save from Antonio Norman before Khem put a rebound of the woodwork wide despite being unchallenged in front of the empty net as Fiji pressed forward looking to put the result beyond any doubt.
Akulia Mateisuva’s stretched out leg came to his side’s rescue at the other end, but the Fiji keeper couldn’t prevent Vanuatu legend Ben Hungai narrowing the gap in his last ever match for the national team.
Khem chipped over the keeper with 40 seconds to go to secure the win to the delight of his coach.
“The team finished fifth and we only lost to the futsal powerhouses of the region, Tahiti and the Solomons but few were focused on winning the other matches and we are here finishing fifth which is still a good result for us,” said Mira Sahib.
Meanwhile retiring skipper Ben Hungai was emotional at the end of a remarkable career.
“Today is a moving moment for me, playing my last game with the national team I love so much,” he said.
“I leave a lot of good memories on the court and I’m really proud with my last game and scoring my last OFC goal, despite losing I’m very proud,” Hungai added.