Tahiti are into the quarter-finals of the OFC U-17 Championship 2023 after a Tiahiti Colombani-inspired 6-0 win over the Cook Islands at HFC Bank Stadium in Suva.
The playmaker scored twice and assisted another as Tahiti made it two wins from two in Fiji and secured top spot in Group C despite some brave opposition.
With complete disregard for their status as underdogs, the Cook Islands looked determined to push Tahiti all the way and nearly took a shock lead seven minutes in. Dallas Rongokea’s speculative 35-yard effort had Tahiti stopper Argan Clodic-Boucher backtracking before clipping the crossbar on its way to safety.
However, Tahiti remained the dominant side, allowing the Cook Islands possession in their own half before pouncing and attacking with pace when back in possession.
That tactic paid off midway through the opening period when Colombani’s long-range strike beat Cook Islands stopper Robert Savage, skimming the underside of the bar before hitting the back of the net for 1-0.
Hikutini Tamarii struck the post with a crisp half-volley shortly after before the Cook Islands threatened again. On this occasion, it was Jeremiah Williams who tried his luck from distance but the ball rolled comfortably into Clodic-Boucher’s arms.
Moments later and Tahiti took control. Colombani again was the instigator, rifling a left-foot strike in off the base of the post from just outside the penalty area on the stroke of half-time.
The second period nearly began with an immediate response from the Cook Islands. Shane Tuteru tried his luck direct from kick-off, with Clodic-Boucher nearly gifting him an audacious long-distance goal.
However, Tahiti soon took full control as shortly after Savage denied him a hat-trick goal Colombani turned provider for Titouan Guillemant, whose shot went through the Cook Islands stopper for a three-goal advantage.
Colombani’s treble continued to elude him as his breathtaking mazy run was not rewarded with the goal it deserved, Savage denying him at the near post but Tahiti soon put the game to bed when Tuarii Rota punished a Savage spillage from close-range.
As the Cook Islands tired, Tahiti took full advantage. Substitute Eden Castodeau dispatched a penalty before fellow replacement Teriitaumatatini Martin smashed home the sixth.
Tahiti’s win secures their passage to the quarter-finals. The Cook Islands now face Vanuatu on January 17 with a place in the final eight still very much in reach for both nations.
TAHITI 6 (Tiahiti COLOMBANI 22′, 45+2, Titouan GUILLEMANT 53′, Tuarii ROTA 66′, Eden CADOUSTEAU 74′ p, Teriitaumatatini MARTIN 78′)
COOK ISLANDS 0