Fresh from leading his side to historic success after Tahiti side downed New Caledonia 1-0 in the OFC Nations Cup final, winning coach Eddy Etaeta says there is more to come from his charges ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013.
“I can’t tell you my feelings right now – we won’t realise what we have achieved until we head for Brazil,” Etaeta told FIFA.com after the final. “Emotions are running high and it is difficult for me to put into words what this achievement means.”
Victory was the culmination of a decade-long rebuilding plan by the Tahiti Football Federation and Etaeta believes there is a lot more left to do before they rub shoulders with the world’s elite in Brazil.
Tahiti won all five of its matches at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup including two victories over Francophone rivals New Caledonia, a turnaround from the semi-final defeat suffered at the Pacific Games last September.
The Tehau brothers - Jonathan, Alvin and Lorenzo - were in red hot form notching an impressive 13 of the 20 goals scored in Honiara en route to the title, with other star performances by old stagers like Angelo Tchen, Xavier Samin and inspirational skipper and former Montpellier defender Nicolas Vallar. Other players, such as Sebastien Labayen and Raimana Lee Fung Kuee, were unable to make the journey to the Solomon Islands because of work commitments.
Tahiti hope for star boost
Tahiti’s hopes look even brighter with Etaeta optimistic that Monaco forward Marama Vahirua will make himself available for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Round Three qualifiers later this year, as well as the FIFA Confederations Cup.
“Some players who weren’t here meant our squad was not at full strength,” said Etaeta. “It is difficult for us to have all our players at our disposal because of club commitments. But we have some players like Marama Vahirua to come in. Marama couldn’t come to the OFC Nations Cup because of his situation at his new club in Europe.”
Etaeta says the OFC Nations Cup victory could be a platform for the likes of the Tehau brothers to find professional clubs after eye-catching performances in Honiara. “We hope that Alvin, Jonathan and Lorenzo could find professional clubs in Australia, New Zealand or the USA, maybe even in Europe – why not? - to help our preparation for Brazil,” said Etaeta. “They have each had strong performances in the Nations Cup.”
Tahiti won their group with an easy 10-1 win over Samoa with Lorenzo Tehau bagging four, Jonathan two, Alvin two and their cousin Teaonui ‘Filou’ Tehau scoring off the bench, with Steevy Chong Hue – Tahiti’s goalscoring hero in the final – completing the rout. They followed that up with a nervy 4-3 win over New Caledonia, before sealing a semi-final spot against Solomon Islands by downing Vanuatu 4-1.
“Our greatest strength here has been our strong mentality,” Etaeta said. “We have played five games and it is difficult physically and mentally to play five games in ten days. We were rigorous in defence and our execution going forward was efficient. The result was all that matters, not the performance.”
Tahiti ground out a 1-0 win over host nation Solomon Islands in a tough semi-final in front of a packed home crowd, before beating New Caledonia in a tense final. The match was a tough physical game that Etaeta said suited his team. “I was very surprised New Caledonia played a long ball game for the final," he said. "They played a much different style of football in the group stage and semi-final against New Zealand. This was better for us.
“This victory is for all the people of Tahiti but also to all the coaches working hard in our country to raise the level, but most of all for my father who has always supported me in everything I do.”