BELO HORIZONTE: Tahiti, the rank outsiders expected to suffer a string of massacres at the Confederations Cup, managed what might be considered a moral victory in losing their opening here ‘only’ 6-1 to Nigeria.
The African champions were still shaking off jetlag after a delayed arrival in Brazil following a pay and bonuses squabble between their players and the football association on the eve of their departure.
Tahiti, surprise winners of the Oceania championship, may not be as fortunate next time out when they face world and European champions Spain on the grand stage of the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Not that it will be even a quarter full, judging by the attendance evidence in the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. The official count was given as 20,187 but that was clearly based on tickets sold rather than fans in the stadium.
Tahiti, with only one professional player in their squad, suffered a terrible start in Group B when the ball hit the referee and ran to Nigeria’s Uwa Echiejile who scored in the fifth minute with a twice deflected shot.
Five minutes later Nnamdi Oduamadi strolled throughTahiti’s defence to make it 2-0 five minutes later and he added a third for the African champions before the half-hour.
Tahiti brought the crowd to life when Jonathan Tehau headed a goal back in the 54th minute. But Nigeria produced a late flurry when Tehau put through his own goal, Nnamdi completed a hat-trick and Echiejile scored his second.
It was Tahiti’s first match against opponents from outside the Oceania Confederation.