The men’s OFC Nations Cup final in 2012 – when Tahiti beat New Caledonia 1-0 – is the only final in the tournament’s history not to feature either New Zealand or Australia.
The Nations Cup was first contested in 1973 and since 2004 it has been played every four years.
Australia moved to the Asian Football Confederation on January 1, 2006, leaving New Zealand as a presumptive Nations Cup favourite for future events.
But despite having qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 2010, where they embarked on a memorable campaign, New Zealand’s All Whites found the OFC Nations Cup in 2012 to be a challenging time.
Held in the Solomon Islands, the eight-team tournament split the competing countries into two groups of four. The top two finishers from each group advanced to the semifinals.
Tahiti topped Group A with New Caledonia second while New Zealand and the Solomon Islands advanced from Group B.
In front of 10,000 people at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara, New Caledonia achieved one of the biggest victories in their footballing history as they topped the All Whites 2-0 in the semifinals.
Second-half goals to Bertrand Kai and Georges Gope-Fenepej sealed the upset.
“We analysed New Zealand, saw they were a little bit heavy in their movement and we tried to create depth and speed in the game and be aggressive,” New Caledonia coach Alain Moizan said after the game. “We saw our tactics work today.
“We really believed we were able to do something today. New Zealand don’t have better players than us and we have shown today we were as good as them.”
The loss was a shock to All Whites coach Ricki Herbert as the All Whites were unable to take their chances.
“I’m hugely disappointed,” Herbert told the New Zealand Herald at the time. “It was my 53rd game [as coach today] and it was probably the worst moment I have had.
“We weren’t good enough. Collectively the performance wasn’t there. At the end of the day it was a very dedicated and committed New Caledonia side that were good enough to beat us.”
In the other final-four encounter, Tahiti edged the Solomons 1-0 to set up the Francophone Final.
With a spot at the 2013 Confederations Cup on the line, Tahiti beat New Caledonia 1-0 as Steevy Chong Hue nailed the winner in the 10th minute.
“It’s unbelievable, completely incredible,” said Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta, who shed tears of joy on the final whistle.
“This path started 12 years ago and now we have finally achieved our goal and will go to the Confederations Cup.”
In what was always going to be a gargantuan task, Tahiti struggled at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, losing all three matches; Jonathan Tehau etched his name into the record books with a goal in the 6-1 defeat to Nigeria, their only goal at the event.
But the Nations Cup in 2012 will always be remembered as the tournament where the Pacific Island nations gained more self-belief as they proved New Zealand could be beaten.
Tahiti’s win marked the first OFC Nations Cup title for a team from the Pacific Islands and added to their growing football history, alongside their outstanding achievements in beach soccer.