Tahiti suffered a 6-1 thrashing by Nigeria in the FIFA Confederations Cup on Monday, although the amateurs did find the net as Jonathan Tehau scored at both ends as they made their debut at a major tournament.
Tehau, a delivery driver back home, became the first player to score for both teams in a Confederations Cup match having headed in for the Oceania champions after 54 minutes, before finding his own net 15 minutes later in the Group B match.
Error-prone amateurs Tahiti, with only one professional player in their squad, suffered a terrible start when the ball hit the referee and ran to Nigeria’s Uwa Echiejile, who scored in the fifth minute with a twice deflected shot.
Nigeria seemed set for a big scoreline when Nnamdi Oduamadi strolled through Tahiti’s defense to make it 2-0 five minutes later after the South Pacific islanders gave the ball away and he added a third for the African champions before the half-hour mark.
Tahiti brought the crowd to life, though, when Tehau headed a goal back, before a previously wasteful Nigeria produced a late flurry when the unfortunate Tehau put through his own goal, Nnamdi completed a hat-trick and Echiejile scored his second.
“To lose 6-1 is hard, but you have to put it in context,” Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta told reporters. “We are an amateur side playing against professionals and of course that showed, but when the draw was made in December I said if we scored one goal here it would be a great achievement and we have accomplished that.”
“They said they were going to fight like lions and they did,” Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. “But, with all respect to Tahiti, you think it’s going to be easy playing against a team like that, but they showed us they can play football and I congratulate them. We wasted a lot of chances in the first half, but I am pleased we got the goals in the end.”
The 20,000 crowd vociferously backed Tahiti, who took to the field wearing shell necklaces, and jeered Nigeria, creating a surprisingly raucous atmosphere at the Mineirao, especially considering FIFA’s ban on musical instruments.
Nigeria could easily have been five goals ahead at halftime as they wasted further chances.
Tahiti strung some neat moves together and had the stadium in raptures when Tehau headed in at the far post from a corner.
They were growing in confidence and Nigeria became visibly frustrated until the islanders ran out of steam in the final 20 minutes.
Nigeria arrived in Brazil on Sunday after a dispute with their federation over bonus payments sparked a players’ boycott which briefly threatened their participation.
It was Tahiti’s first match against opponents from outside the Oceania Confederation, according to official records, and one they will never forget, especially Tehau.
“Well, I am so proud to score,” Tehau told reporters. “I saw the gap and went for it. We showed we could play some football, and yes we lost, but we deserved at least a goal and we got it.”
“If I could chose one team to play for it would be Barcelona, but I won’t tell the Spain players that when we play them on Thursday,” he joked.
Asked about his own-goal at the other end, he laughed and said: “Well. that’s just football.”