Tahiti lost their three Confederations Cup group-stage matches by a combined score of 24-1, but being the gracious guests that they are, they still took the time to thank the host nation. Following their 8-0 loss to Uruguay, in which they surrendered the fastest goal in the Confederations Cup's brief history (79 seconds, scored by Abel Hernandez), the Tahitian players held a large banner that read "Obrigado Brasil!" (thank you, Brazil) as they waved farewell.
As the smallest nation to ever compete in a FIFA senior tournament, Tahiti instantly became fan favorites at the tournament. Their popularity only grew when they managed to score in their first match against Nigeria and gave traditional shell necklaces to all of their opponents before every match. Their massive defeats in every match prompted some critics to argue that their inclusion in the tournament (achieved fair and square by winning the 2012 OFC Nations Cup) only served to devalue the competition. But the Brazilian people got behind the team at the time when they themselves are feeling like the little guy as they protest their government and fend off attacks from a violent police force in the streets.
"We have won a major victory here by winning the hearts of the Brazilian public," said Tahiti manager Eddy Etaeta after their record-breaking 10-0 loss to Spain. "I think its fair to say we are better known in Brazil than we are in Tahiti."
So the mostly amateur team returns home with a set of once in a lifetime memories and fans around the world. They never came close to winning any matches, but they did win a bit of admiration for their positive style both in attitude and in their refusal to play with cynical tactics by parking the bus and trying to frustrate their more talented opponents. Size and skill aside, it was nice to see a rare bit of joy and sportsmanship brought to a tournament of jaded giants.