Saudi Arabia, United States, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Denmark, Mexico, Nigeria, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Czech Republic, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Bolivia, Egypt, Germany, New Zealand, France, South Korea, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Turkey, Tunisia, Greece, Spain, Iraq, Italy. It looks like a random list of countries from all continents, but in reality we are talking about the all participants of the FIFA Confederations Cup from 1992 until 2009. 29 nations took part of the mini World Cup and all have something in common: all participated, at least once, at a real World Cup tournament, since 1930. It’s fair that a part of them first appeared at the Confederations’ and after a while at their first supreme tournament. Now, in 2013, a new entry is about to take place. The 30th team! We are talking about Tahiti, a national team that never participated at a World Cup and definitely never could have catch even this competition, if Australia didn’t have change the continent in which it played!
Tahiti is the most exotic name which participated in an intercontinental official competition. Maybe can only be compared with Trinidad & Tobago who appeared at the final tournament from 2006, in Germany. But the Caribbean country managed then a huge 0-0 with Sweden, so for Tahiti this seems a heavy heritage. Unlikely that they will gather any point in a group with Spain, Uruguay and Nigeria, but their coach figured out a solution that will help in improving their little chances. Its name? Marama Vahirua! Most football lovers know that the 33 years old forward was born in the capital town of Tahiti, Papeete, and made career in the French league at Nantes, Nice, Lorient, Nancy and Monaco. So, naturally, he had only two choices to appear as an international. Of course, the two nations mentioned above. Still, after only six matches at U21 level for France, between 2001 and 2002, Marama, wasn’t caped ever again. But didn’t choose to represent Tahiti. Now, at the end of his career, he got another chance because Tahiti needs him the most. This time he won’t refuse it because the chance of playing against Spain and Uruguay, in official matches, it’s a real one-in-a-life-time chance for a player born in an exotic country such this.
Sure, Tahiti’s chances to win any point remain almost the same as without Vahirua, which means approximately equal to zero… But the probability of them scoring some goals increases considerably, because even though their new striker has a quite advanced age, his sense of opposite post surely increased as years passed. Or at least remained, in general terms, the same as ten years ago, even though speed and stamina got a bit down…
Though, forgive me, because I omitted to present an essential thing: how in the earth qualified Tahiti for this competition which still remains a hard reachable one?! In fact, we all know that only champions from all continents have the right to participate. OK, so in the Oceania things are easier now since the Australian national football team, by far the best in the region from all time, decided to join competitions from Asia, but still this doesn’t explain the success of Tahiti. I mean, New Zealand still plays here and despite not being at Australia’s level, they have important performances in front of all other countries from Oceania. In fact, the first eight editions of the OFC Nations Cup were shared by the two countries mentioned before: four each. Since 1973 and until 2012, no other side raised the trophy above its head even though Tahiti, in three occasions, and New Caledonia, in two times, reached the final, which they eventually lost.
But last year, in 2012, Tahiti shocked with a great performance which included five victories out of five matches. 10-1 against Samoa, 4-1 against Vanuatu and, most important, a decisive 4-3 against New Caledonia, ensured him that they won’t play in the semifinal against the powerful New Zealand. So, there, the Solomon Islands, was a good opponent, especially because they also were the hosts of the tournament, but Tahiti pushed to the final after a 1-0 win. There, they once again avoided New Zealand, again thanks to New Caledonia. The French colony surprisingly beat 2-0 and the last group match was replayed. Tahiti won again, this time with 1-0, thanks to the historical goal of Chong Hue, from the 10th minute. The first important success from Tahiti’s history and which ensured a very unexpected qualification to the FIFA Confederations Cup. A competition which starts tomorrow and has the role to show if Brazil is ready for hosting the World Cup from the next year!