When Steevy Chong Hue, striker for Belgian third division side FC Blied-Gaume, slotted home the winner against New Caledonia last summer for Tahiti he secured his nation a once in a life time opportunity.
His goal came in the final of the 2012 OFC Nations Cup, a competition which comes with the opportunity to play in the 2013 Confederations Cup.
As many fans know, the Confederations Cup is used as the prelude to the World Cup and allows football fans around the globe a preview of the atmosphere they can expect in the host nation the following summer.
This year Brazil will play host to the Confederations Cup and will welcome the champions and runners up of FIFA’s continental competitions. So far the participants include Spain, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Italy and Tahiti.
The challenge that the Oceania champions face is not lost on their manager Eddy Etaeta.
“We are just a small country going up against seven world names. Winning the Oceania Nations Cup sparked incredible joy. After our victory I think our players are now not really aware what we face at the Confederations Cup”.
The majority of Etaeta’s squad plays their football in the Tahiti First Division apart from striker Chong Hue and defender Tamatoa Wagemann, who plays for US Change in the French amateur fifth division.
In the OFC Cup Tahiti demonstrated brilliant all round play, scoring 18 goals in the group stages before grinding out 1-0 wins in the semi-final and final to take home the trophy.
However, the Confederations Cup will probably be Tahiti’s only chance of playing in Brazil after poor performances in their World Cup qualifying group.
Despite being drawn against New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands, who had both been defeated at the OFC Cup, they lost 4-0 and 2-0 to them respectively.
Tahiti also has Oceania heavy weights New Zealand in their group and has so far lost to them twice with score lines of 3-0 and 2-0.
Before Tahiti took home the silverware last summer they were regarded as huge outsiders and it was a shock to the region when they succeeded in over throwing the more established nations.
Their performances against New Zealand show how they cope with a country which has had much more experience against the world’s best nations and Eddy Etaeta must wonder how they will cope against Spain and Uruguay in their Confederations Cup group.
The Tahiti squad know their limitations more than anyone else and will not be expecting to enjoy a successive summer of silverware but must go into the competition filled with confidence and self- assurance.
The region of Oceania may be scoffed at when you consider the nations that occupy regions such as Europe, South America and Asia but Tahiti can only beat that teams that are put in front of them, and when you consider the circumstances and limitations that the squad operate in, you couldn’t argue that any other participant in Brazil this summer has worked any harder than the Tahitians.