Going into their last Group B match against Uruguay at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Tahiti knew exactly what was required of them to keep their championship dreams alive.
The two-time World Cup runners-up had to win by at least three goals against the South Americans to leapfrog them into second place on the table and advance to the quarter-finals of the competition on goal difference.
Although they came agonisingly close to achieve their target with a 6-4 victory, the French Polynesians fell short of the knock-out stages by a single goal.
The Tahitians started the game the best possible way when Ariihau Teriitau opened the scoring with a header from Heiarii Tavanae’s corner.
But following a corner at the other end, Uruguay were back on level terms three minutes later.
Patrick Tepa gave Tahiti a narrow advantage at the end of the first period and the Tiki Toa looked to be in full control, racing to a 4-1 lead courtesy of Alvin Tehau and a superb bicycle kick by Tearii Labaste after the break.
With only 12 minutes left on the clock the Oceania champions made it 5-1 thanks to a long range strike by Heimanu Taiarui.
However, Uruguay refused to lie down with captain Gaston Laduche and Marcello Capurro replying to make it 5-3 before Tepa restored the three goal cushion his side needed with a beautiful shot.
With three minutes to go there was still time for a late twist as the Uruguayans took advantage of a defensive mistake to break Tahitian hearts.
The 6-4 final score meant the OFC representatives have finished third in Group B due to their inferior goal difference compared with the table-topping Italians and runners-up Uruguay, despite all three teams picked up 6 points with two wins and a defeat from their three matches.
It’s the first time since 2011 the Tahitians failed to reach the knock-out stages of a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, and they will look back at their 12-4 defeat to Italy in their opening match as the main reason for their disappointing exit.