Photo Credit: Supplied to OFC Media

Tahiti is ready to rock the international scene once again at their seventh Beach Soccer World Cup, in the UAE this month.

The Tiki Toa has led the way for Oceania on the world stage in Beach Soccer, continuously punching above their weight, with runner-up finishes at the 2015 World Cup in Portugal and 2017 World Cup in the Bahamas.

Players have slowly but surely been acclimatising to the conditions in Dubai, which has been more than favourable with temperatures sitting around the early 20s.

Photo Credit: Fédération Tahitienne de Football via TNTV

It’s a stark contrast to temperatures in Brazil, the home of Beach Soccer, where Tahiti spent a month acquiring new skills which they hope to put to the test at the World Cup.

“It was amazing,” captain Raimana Li Fung Kuee said.

“It was like a dream. You know, everything here (Rio) is good for practice, and we made some good friends.

“We make some friendly games against some different players from Brazil. It was very hard for us because they are strong, they’re very fast. But I think the team has progressed well and I think we are ready for this world cup.”

Tahiti Beach Soccer team with some Brazilian players after their friendly match in Rio. Photo Credit: Supplied to OFC Media

But to reach the same heights of seven years ago, they’ll have to find a way out of what Li Fung Kuee is calling the ‘death group’.

“There are very good teams you have Argentina, Spain, Iran, so it will be hard for us. In a world cup every team is difficult to play. But we play our game,” Raimana said.

“We are just novice, in Iran and Spain they are professional, but we have already beaten them. Spain at the last World Cup, and we have beaten Iran and Argentina. So yeah, we can do it again.

“The two teams who pass this group, I think they go to the final, or the four last teams.

“Just trust in ourselves and do our best.”

Photo Credit: Fédération Tahitienne de Football via TNTV

Not just for themselves and country, but for their families too. Since embarking on this journey players and staff have spent over a month on the road. Sacrifice they want to make count in Dubai.

“We want to show our families, everybody in the world, that we are training hard, and we want to fight in this world cup. We want to go as far as we can. So yeah, we are very impassioned and excited for this world cup,” Li Fung Kuee said.

Photo Credit: Fédération Tahitienne de Football via TNTV

At 38-years-old, Raimana has experienced all the highs and lows of Tahiti’s six Beach Soccer World Cup campaigns. And believes if they make it out of their group, a third finals appearance could be on the cards.

“We want to show that maybe on the map we are very small, but we can be very big on the sand.”

Match group stage

Tahiti v Argentina 17:00 | Thursday 15 February

Tahiti v Spain 17:00 | Saturday 17 February

Tahiti v IR Iran 21:00 | Monday 19 February