OFC Nations Cup Profiles
Tahitian football is currently on somewhat of a high and coach Eddy Etaeta will be hoping to capitalise on that momentum by creating some memorable moments in Honiara.
The nation’s most recent feat took place on the club stage with Papeete-based outfit Tefana making it all the way to the 2012 O-League final before narrowly losing out to New Zealand’s Auckland City and settling for second place.
While lifting the trophy would have made their impressive run all the more spectacular, Tefana managed to create a piece of history anyway as no Tahiti club had progressed to the final of the O-League in its five-year history, although Pirae did finish runners-up in the 2006 edition of the OFC Club Championship, the competition that preceeded the O-League.
But it is not just on the club front that Tahitian sides have performed well in recent months and a strong showing in the Nations Cup would continue a string of success at international tournaments.
Last year was one of the finest in the French territory’s proud footballing history with a bronze medal at the 2011 Pacific Games arriving in the same month as a historic first ever appearance at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The Tiki Toa, which translates as Warrior Men, did more than just make up the numbers on the world’s biggest beach soccer stage in the Italian town of Ravenna, picking up a win over Venezuela to become the first side from Tahiti to earn a victory at a FIFA event.
Another first was achieved just a couple of years earlier when the country’s U-20 national team broke Tahiti’s qualifying duck by making it to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009.
No positive results were secured on that occassion but such a showing will not be acceptable to Etaeta in Honiara. Having performed well at the Pacific Games and seen Tefana finish among Oceania’s club elite, Etaeta and his men are strong contenders for a semi-final placing and have the talent to follow through on that reputation.
Goalkeeper Xavier Samin is regarded as one of the safest pair of hands in the Pacific while Alvin Tehau and Roihau Degage — Tefana’s joint top-scorers in the O-League — will be expected to find the net at the other end.
Etaeta is without several key players due to other commitments though and the loss of Sebastian Labayen leaves a substantial hole as the pint-sized midfielder was the architect of much of Tefana’s best play in the O-League and is just as important to the national team cause. The likes of Heimano Bourebare and Jonathan Tehau will need to run the midfield in his absence as Tahiti look to shake off the tag of Nations Cup bridesmaids.
They have finished runners-up in this tournament on three occasions — 1973, 1980 and 1996 — and will be hoping to finally go one better this time.
Veteran Samin, who made his first Nations Cup appearance in the 2002 event, believes they can but is wary of the threat posed by Tahiti’s Group A rivals.
“I think Vanuatu will be hard to play against as we don’t know their players or how the team plays very well,” he says.
“New Caledonia are a good team but we have already played them at the 2011 Pacific Games and know a lot more about their abilities. We need to be very careful against Samoa because it is also a team we don’t know well at all.”
Momentum behind Tahiti in Honiara
OFC Nations Cup Profiles