The Qantas Futsalroos preparations for the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup continued on Tuesday evening with a 1-5 defeat to Egypt in the second of their five pre-tournament friendly matches in Bangkok.
Coming just 24 hours after the historic victory over Thailand, fatigue played a major part in the Australian collapse, with the Egyptians netting three late goals to seal the result after Nathan Niski’s strike had given the Qantas Futsalroos a lifeline at 1-2 early in the second half.
The Qantas Futsalroos took the opportunity to give most of the squad game time over the course of the opening two fixtures but goalkeeper Gavin O’Brien was rested for both.
But you won’t hear the experienced custodian complaining though as he’s just happy to be part of the squad after a frustrating build-up beset by injuries which, at one stage, appeared likely to prelude him taking part.
“I did my ankle playing outdoor football before the qualifying tournament in Dubai and that knocked me around and I was out for quite some time,” O’Brien said.
“I missed the Asian Cup through injury but am ecstatic the boys qualified. Since then I have been able to do what I had to do and have managed to shake off the injuries.
"Just prior to the squad being selected I got a slight injury to my hamstring and being cautious, and realising that the World Cup was a big deal, I treated it very carefully. I spoke to the doctors and the coaching staff who enabled me to rest and try a late fitness test which, thankfully, I passed.”
O’Brien’s FIFA Futsal World Cup experience could well prove crucial to the squad with the Campbelltown City Quake shot-stopper a veritable veteran of FIFA’s flagship competition with the 2012 edition being the third that he has attended.
“My first World Cup was in 2000 in Guatemala when Jim Roberts was the coach where I was the third-string goalkeeper, you know, the young one who gets taken away for the experience,” he reminisced.
“Adam Confoy was the no.1 and George Suarez was the no.2. After that I played in the Tigers Fives and that was Adam’s last tournament and that gave me the opportunity and I have been involved pretty much for the last ten to twelve years.
"My second World Cup was in 2004, the last one that Australia qualified for through Oceania. We missed out in 2008 by losing the second group game against Thailand and didn’t get a ticket to Brazil, but we expected it to be tough as it was our first attempt to qualify through Asia.
“At this level there’s so much riding on it and it can be exhausting. We have three tough group matches and only a day rest in between them. We also have more lead up games and that will also take its toll.
"Italy will be a great challenge first up. You want to play the best teams and Knighty [Qantas Futsalroos Head Coach Steve Knight] has said to us that he wants to play Brazil at some stage so we can show the World what we can do.
"Previous to Dubai he said to us he thought this group was a special group and qualifying through Asia proved that. Beating Thailand was a big boost as we had only ever beaten them once before in 2004.”
That win over Thailand certainly got the Futsal community buzzing and showed how important the string of warm-up matches can be in building team cohesion and understanding ahead of the main event.
“The warm up matches are so important to us,” O’Brien confirmed.
“To play Thailand in their own country, a couple of days after having got off the plane, in front of a large crowd and to beat them, was just awesome. It was disappointing that we got beaten by Egypt last night but you need to take it into context.
"It was a second game in two days and they had been rested for that day and they were only narrowly beaten by Thailand when they played. The idea of these warm-up matches are to create momentum and learn from those sorts of things so that when you go into the World Cup you do so with momentum, confidence and belief.
“When I first started you would only ever play three or four times a year and you’d be blessed to get a tournament. Since going to Asia a lot of the players selected in the squad have played in lots of big events, such as the Malaysian Fives, AFC Asian Cup and ASEAN competitions.
"They’ve caught up to me in terms of tournament experience and have played big games every year. In my early day’s if we got a game it was a miracle as we didn’t have the Asian connections back then.
"We do have a couple of debutants, but now that we play so many games through the backing of the FFA, that’s why we have got better as a Futsal team.”
And whilst O’Brien knows he may not play every minute of the tournament, he’s confident that the squad can achieve big things.
“Every player here wants to play every minute of every game and I am the same.
"I understand that the ways things have evolved over the last six months, and the injuries I have had, may have made things a little different in terms of selection, but all three goalkeepers are playing well and I know that all of us are just happy to be part of it and will do whatever we are asked.
"We are all old enough and professional enough to know that and we are all there for the side, supportive of everyone. I’m overwhelmed to be here, but just itching to play some games and not take anything for granted.”
The Qantas Futsalroos continue their FIFA Futsal World Cup preparation with a friendly match against the Solomon Islands on 25th October.