With just one professional player on the team, Tahiti were already the darlings of the Confederations Cup before it even began. The smallest nation to ever compete in a FIFA senior tournament only endeared themselves further by their goodwill gesture before playing their first group-stage match against Nigeria.
When the Tahitian players lined up the for the national anthems wearing traditional shell necklaces, it had many people wondering why. But as the two teams shook hands before kick-off, the Tahitians took off their necklaces and gave them to the Nigeria players. Even Nigeria's manager, Stephen Keshi, was given one and decided to wear it.
Tahiti qualified for the tournament by beating New Caledonia in the 2012 Oceanic Football Confederation Nations Cup final. It was the first time there was a winner other than Australia (now in the more competitive Asian Football Confederation) or New Zealand, who were upset by New Caledonia in the semifinals.
Unfortunately, Tahiti's nice gesture didn't help their luck. The crowd in the half-full Estadio Mineirao was very much on their side, but just five minutes into the match, Nigeria scored with a shot that took two deflections after after the ball went off the referee. They added a second goal in the 10th minute and a third in the 25th. Though Tahiti did get a few decent chances in the first 45 minutes against Nigeria going half-speed, watching all of this unfold was like watching a puppy repeatedly get kicked by someone who doesn't want to be kicking a puppy.
UPDATE: The puppy kicks back! Tahiti scored in the 55th minute, prompting absolute jubilation.
UPDATE II: Nigeria ended up winning 6-1, but Tahiti never gave up and even had a few more chances to score. This might've been the happiest a team has ever been to lose 6-1.
- Sports & Recreation