Tahiti’s beach soccer team, the Tiki Toa, have a tough task ahead of them after going down in their opening FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup match to one of the tournament favourites Brazil.
They now face Japan in a must-win encounter if they wish to keep their dream of a second successive final alive, but after Japan opened with a stunning performance which saw them down Poland 9-4, Tahiti have their work cut out for them.
“It was a very difficult match,” captain Naea Bennett said of the Brazil match.
“To fall in the opening match to a major side that is one of the tournament favourites, it’s not easy, but we were by no means ridiculed.
“We tried to play our game. We missed a number of goal opportunities and were unlucky at times.
Bennett is right about chances going to waste.
Tahiti had 48 attempts at goal during their match against Brazil – 27 of which were off-target, so they’ll need to be a lot more accurate against Japan.
Bennett said the side is working hard to put the opening loss behind them and focus on the next task.
“We’ve held onto our morale, we have to more matches to try and qualify for the quarter finals.”
Tahiti have never met Japan in a World Cup match, however played two friendly matches against the Asian side in September 2016.
The Tiki Toa lost both matches, 5-2 and 5-1, and at the time player-coach Teva Zaveroni said Japan were a much more prepared side at that time.
“I was amazed by the Japanese players’ power,” Zaveroni said last year.
“It is regrettable that we were not in a good condition. We are in the middle of the process to raise our level of concentration and the whole level of the team and to improve our techniques.”
That was six months ago and the Tiki Toa have been working hard on their fitness, technique and tactics, and Zaveroni hopes they have done enough to see off Japan.
“It is our turn now to show off our strengths,” he said.
Tahiti will take on Japan in their second FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Group D match at 3.30pm (9.30am TAHT) in National Beach Soccer Arena in Nassau, Bahamas.