Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2016 OFC Nations Cup > Tahiti set sights on reprising fairytale

Tahiti set sights on reprising fairytale

Their showing in Brazil, in concert with their unexpected victory at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup, was a true football fairytale. The latest edition of the Oceania championship has finally rolled around again, but reprising such unlikely success remains a massive challenge. And it is one, of which, Tahiti are all too aware.
The opening chapter in the Oceania’s latest football narrative will be played out on Saturday as the eight-team event kicks-off in Papua New Guinea. Awaiting the winner of the 11 June final is a ticket to the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, while the best six placed teams will advance to Stage Three of OFC qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
New Zealand will, as always, commence as warm favourites, but there are a host of ambitious Pacific Island nations with designs on their own historic breakthrough. But to date, Tahiti are the only nation outside New Zealand – and former OFC member Australia – to win the tournament.
Barely a third of the Tahiti squad from four years ago is returning to defend the crown. Work commitments are invariably a hindrance, such are the varied challenges for footballers in the region. Indeed, work is the reason for the absence of Alvin’s twin brother Lorenzo and eldest sibling Jonathon, though cousin Teaonui is backing up again following the quartet’s star showing in 2012.
Meanwhile, many of Tahiti’s famed beach soccer stars who have also shone on grass, are unavailable as they focus on going one better by winning a world title next year.
Several of the new crop of players are highly inexperienced at this level, having graduated from the nation’s U-17 side which narrowly failed to reach the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. One surviving veteran of the 2012 campaign is Alvin Tehau – a hard-running but skilful midfielder so typical of players in the region.
Tehau admits that reprising previous success will be tough, but he is philosophical about the qualities of the current Toa Aito squad in comparison to the Class of 2012.
“Are we better than 2012?” says Tehau.
“No I don’t think so, but every competition is different, there are so many things to take into account, internal factors such as the individual and collective qualities of the group, as well as external factors such as the environment and our opponents for example.
“But it was same (situation) four years ago,” continues Tehau. “We were not the best, but yet we managed to achieve something with what we had. Time will tell, if we don’t win this tournament, then people will say that the 2016 squad was weaker, but this is football – you are judged by your results.”
Tahiti faces a significant challenge to win through to the semi-finals with well-regarded Francophone rivals New Caledonia, and the rapidly improving host nation in their group, along with Stage One qualifiers Samoa.
“We have to be realistic about our ambitions,” continues Tehau. “Most of the big teams will have their professional players, and are taking this competition very seriously. Therefore it will tougher for us this year, and we are surely not top seeds for this tournament. So there’s no extra expectation, we’re in the same state of mind as we were four years ago.”
Tehau, who featured in two matches at Brazil 2013, admits that the lure of winning a berth through to the world stage is hard to ignore. The 27-year-old had the rare opportunity to pit wits against Spain and Nigeria on Brazil’s grand football stages, while his brother Jonathon scored a famous goal in the defeat against the Africans. It is, of course, a world away in every sense from the Stade Louis Ganivet, where Tehau normally plies his trade for local heavyweights AS Tefana in front of a few hundred spectators.
“When you’re an amateur, having the opportunity to face football legends such as Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or [Lionel] Messi, motivates you to give 200 per cent on the pitch. We all want to be part of the Confederations Cup. Doubly so for the young players in the team, they only think about one thing: winning the tournament so that they will have the chance to play against the best teams in the world.”
Story courtesy of FIFA. For more on the world game visit www.fifa.com

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