Tahiti avoid humiliation against Nigeria in Brazil
Tahiti avoided humiliation in its debut at a global football tournament by scoring a goal in a 6-1 loss to Nigeria at the Confederations Cup.
Jonathan Tehau headed in a goal early in the second half to reduce the team's deficit to 3-1. The Tahitians then gave their rowing boat celebration its biggest audience yet.
The goal generated the biggest cheers of the match at the Mineirao Stadium, where the local Brazilians adopted Tahiti as their team while jeering the Nigerians.
Tahiti, a team that comes from a small island in the South Pacific and is 138th in the FIFA rankings, is used to playing in front of a few hundred players. But thousands were watching in Belo Horizonte and millions more on television.
"We've shown the world there's some real quality in Tahiti," said Marama Vahirua, the only professional in Tahiti's team. "Just our presence here is a victory and it was fantastic to be adopted by the Brazilian public."
Tehau's elation was short-lived, however. Shortly after scoring, he netted an own-goal.
Nnamdi Oduamadi scored a hat-trick for African champion Nigeria, while Uwa Echiejile added the other two.
Although there was never any threat of anything but a Nigeria victory, Tahiti showed adventure throughout, managing five shots.
"The last 15 minutes were really difficult for us physically because we've never experienced such a tough game before," Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta said. "I'd like to pay tribute to my players, they were fantastic."