OFC Associate Member Tuvalu caused a major upset at the Pacific Mini Games yesterday when they defeated New Caledonia’s U-21 side 2-1 in their second match of the competition.
It was an historic result for the nation of just 12,000 inhabitants as they opened the scoring via Taufaiva Ionatana in the 15th minute.
Tuvalu continued their dominance in the match through to the 69th minute when Alopua Petoa found the back of the net from close range.
New Caledonia pulled one back through an excellent shot from Shene Welepane and also had a goal denied after shooting direct, despite the referee giving an indirect free kick.
Welepane was disappointed at the result, especially because he felt the referee didn’t correctly signal for an indirect, but said these things are part of the game.
“We underestimated them,” he said, “it’s our fault.
“We played like we weren’t in a competition but were just here to make up numbers.”
New Caledonia were left to rue their own mistakes, while Tuvalu celebrated an historic football moment.
Tuvalu Football Association vice-president Samy Nemia was elated at the result.
“This was our first win ever, in the history of football. I’m overjoyed because they played their hearts out for the country tonight,” Nemia said.
New Caledonia will next face Tonga as they hope to turn their campaign around, but will be without captain Pothin Poma who picked up a second yellow card in the match against Tuvalu.