Tahiti lost 6-1 to Nigeria in their first Confederations Cup group-stage match. It was a result everyone expected and one that would've been absolutely devastating to most any team on the losing end of a scoreline that lopsided, but for Tahiti it was cause for joy. Ranked 138th in the world, Tahiti is the smallest nation to ever take part in a FIFA senior tournament. They have just one professional player on the team in 33-year-old Marama Vahirua, who plays for Nancy in Ligue 1.
"Our wildest dream as a team is to score a goal," Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta told ESPN before the tournament began. After giving Nigeria players the gift of shell necklaces before the match and allowing three goals in the first half, Tahiti actually lived their wildest dream with a Jonathan Tehua goal off a corner kick in the 54th minute.
The overjoyed Tahitians celebrated together, first as a massive pile of humanity, then forming a circle and pretending to row. That happiness was tempered a bit when Tehua scored an own goal in the 69th minute and Nigeria went on to score twice more after that to get the 6-1 win. But in a way, that score was more of a badge of honor for Tahiti than had they lost 1-0. They didn't park the bus and form a human wall around their goal. They played without fear or regret. They attacked and challenged Nigeria, who weren't playing at full speed or with much organization.
It will only get tougher for Tahiti as they face Spain and Uruguay next, so they did well to achieve their dream already. Now everything from here on out will be even more of a bonus and Tehau can await a €50 million offer from Real Madrid.
- Sports & Recreation