Oceania beach soccer champions Tahiti recently returned from Japan where they took part in two friendly matches one against Spain and the second against their hosts.
The first match was against Spain on Friday 27 September at Okura Beach Park, Hyogo, an encounter which saw Spain claim an 8-7 victory over the 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup runners-up.
The second encounter on Friday 27 September played out in front of 900 local fans and ended in a 4-4 draw sending the match into a penalty-shootout. When Tahiti’s fifth kicker Heirauarii Salem sent his effort over the cross-bar he handed Japan the shootout victory 5-4.
Despite the losses, Tahiti coach Naea Bennett felt there were a lot of positives to take from the two matches.
“The two matches in Japan were really important for us as they allowed us to get a good idea of our level against quality international opponents. It did the team some good and also as coach, it reassured me. I wouldn’t say that I was happy with the results, but I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw in Japan,” he said.
Captain Raimana Li Fung Kuee was reflective following the loss to Spain.
It was a very tough match. Spain showcased great tempo and it was very difficult to defend against them. We also committed many careless mistakes that led to our opponent scoring goals. By facing a strong team like Spain, it allowed us to find out where we need to improve as an individual and as a team,” he said.
“These matches against Spain and Japan will give us a great opportunity to prepare ourselves ahead of the Beach Soccer World Cup.”
Bennett also added that the opportunity to play against high level opponents like fellow World Cup-bound Japan and the world class Spaniards provided a good chance to try some new formations and test out some of the newer recruits like football international Alvin Tehau.
“We managed to test out the 1-2-1 formation and gave our entire squad the opportunity to play on the pitch. I felt that the Japan Beach Soccer National Team is a strong team that can make a deep run at the World Cup. We saw plenty of room for improvements so we will continue to work hard and strive to become a stronger team both physically and mentally.”
The Tiki Toa’s next test will be two friendly matchs against USA, another World Cup qualified nation, at home in Tahiti before they jet off to Paraguay.