It would serve as a great tiebreaker question at your local pub quiz – Which team finished third at the OFC Beach Soccer Championship in 2007?
Some obvious suggestions would spring to mind such as Tahiti, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
But the right answer is New Zealand who made their sole appearance at the tournament as hosts 13 years ago.
Beach soccer isn’t something that has been synonymous with New Zealand’s football landscape, but their side managed to claim bronze on home sand on Auckland’s North Shore when they beat Tahiti 5-3 on September 3, 2007.
The Solomon Islands won the tournament – now known as the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup – beating Vanuatu 5-3 in the final.
New Zealand’s upset of Tahiti is a unique result for a couple of reasons.
Not only did New Zealand need to flip the form guide given they lost all three of their pool matches but since that event, Tahiti have gone on to great heights in beach soccer.
The Tiki Toa qualified for their maiden FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2011 and claimed silver medals at the 2015 and 2017 editions.
New Zealand’s beach soccer squad for 2007 was largely selected on the back of a tournament held in Mt Maunganui at the end of the 11-a-side national league season.
Many players saw it as an opportunity to get together after their summer campaign had finished without knowing full well what was in store.
Stuart Hogg, who went on to make the Kiwi squad, said they noticed All Whites coach Ricki Herbert and James Pamment sitting in the stands in New Zealand Football tracksuits.
“It turns out they were there selecting a team for a potential tournament that was happening, which was obviously the OFC tournament,” Hogg said as he cast his mind back 13 years.
Pamment coached New Zealand at the OFC event in 2007 and Hogg said they were a unique group, made up of predominantly national league footballers.
Daniel Ellensohn, who went on to collect an All Whites cap later that year against Vanuatu, skippered the team, which also featured Michael Gwyther, Nathan Fry and Mitchell O’Brien among others.
Many of the players knew each other well through their 11-a-side exploits and trips away with New Zealand age-group teams previously.
Pool play proved challenging for the Kiwis as they came to terms with a lack of experience playing beach soccer.
The assembled squad hadn’t played a lot on the sand before and met some teams from the Pacific with plenty of matches under their belts.
“They’re just big and strong,” Hogg said of their opponents.
“Technically, they obviously had a bit of experience behind them, they were flicking balls up. They were really technical. They had a few party tricks, which we quite enjoyed; some of the goals they were scoring were out of this world.
“It was an exhibition for us really of how beach football should be played. So, we were learning as we were going.”
Hogg and his teammates must have taken some of the lessons onboard just in time for the bronze medal match.
Having lost to Tahiti 9-5 in the group stage, a swift improvement was required.
“We turned up and I remember going across the [Auckland Harbour] Bridge and mainly I’m thinking ‘how the hell are we going to manage this and not be disgraced so much?’,” Hogg recalled.
Having rolling substitutes helped some of the New Zealanders who played in short one-minute bursts on their way to a podium finish on the North Shore.
“We didn’t know what to expect, we just played off the cuff with no expectations and it probably suited us a little bit.”
Hogg, 35, has retired from playing competitive football and now works at St Peter’s College in Auckland where he splits his time as a physical education teacher and their Director of Football.
“It gives me good balance between inside the classroom and outside.”
Hogg played for the New Zealand U-20 team and the national A side, but he never expected to represent his country in beach soccer, let alone claim a medal at an OFC event.
“We still talk about it now to this day,” he said, referring to when he catches up with his football mates.
“Sometimes we go to the pub and can’t believe it happened and how it all came about.”
The OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup made a return last year after a six-year hiatus and the next edition is scheduled to be played in 2021.