Football: Tuiloma happy to be back in the action

Bill Tuiloma. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Bill Tuiloma. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

Midfielder Bill Tuiloma was delighted with the All Whites' 3-1 win over Fiji on Saturday but was almost as pleased to have spent 90 minutes on the pitch after being granted only limited playing time in recent months.

The Olympique de Marseille player spent last season on loan at fellow French outfit Strasbourg and admits the experience was a mixed one.

"It was an up-and-down situation because I didn't get as much game time as I would've liked," he says.

"I spent a bit of time in the reserves and came off the bench a few times but, overall, it actually drove me to train even harder and make sure I was ready for the Nations Cup."

All that graft paid off on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Fiji but it was certainly not an easy return to high-pressure football for Tuiloma.

"It wasn't a walk in the park for us and we knew it was going to be tough.

But we got through it and it was good to get the win," he says.

As expected, Fiji put in a determined showing and made the most of their physicality but Tuiloma is confident there will be no lasting effects from the hard-fought encounter.

"The body is feeling good, I had to get a couple of massages on my back but I should be sweet to go. Now we have to get ready for the next game against Vanuatu."

With the conditions in Port Moresby meaning a direct style of play is preferred, Tuiloma has shown he possesses a skill which is seldom seen in Europe's top leagues - a dangerous long throw.

New Zealand's all-important opening strike against Fiji came from this source, the 21-year-old's thrown delivery causing chaos in the Fiji area and eventually allowing Themi Tzimopoulos to score his first ever international goal.

Coach Anthony Hudson has made it clear that his side will play in any manner that is necessary to win the tournament and Tuiloma says he and his team mates will need to carry out whatever instructions are given.

"Each island team is going to be difficult, we just need to be prepared and approach each match with the right mentality. If we focus on our own game and perform our roles then we'll get the job done."

Once he has hopefully helped his country qualify for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, Tuiloma will have another job to do on his return to France.

His loan spell at Strasbourg has now come to an end so Tuiloma's thoughts are turning to securing a place in the first team squad at Marseille, a club currently shrouded in uncertainty due to changes at both the coaching and ownership levels.

"I just want to go back there and train really hard to try to earn my spot in the team. It will all come down to me in terms of how much I put into every training session."

Tuiloma has already put plenty of effort into his time away from the pitch in France, taking all measures to adapt to the culture and even becoming fluent in the notoriously tricky native tongue.

"The main thing was the language, it was difficult when I first arrived in 2013 because I didn't know a word and couldn't understand the players," he says.

"Those first couple of months were hard for me but you just need to keep going. Once you learn the language, you can make friends and life becomes a lot easier."

Tuiloma and co will take on Vanuatu on Tuesday in their second Group B match of the OFC Nations Cup from 4pm local time at Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The match will be shown LIVE on SKY Sport Pop-Up Channel 057 from 6pm (NZT).

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