THE DAY REPLAYED – Roared on by a noisy capacity crowd at the To’ata Stadium in Papeete and fired up by their pre-match haka, hosts Tahiti got their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup campaign off to the prefect start by edging out United Arab Emirates in a five-goal thriller.
The second day of the tournament had a pronounced Latin flavour, with Spain and Argentina kicking off with respective wins over USA and El Salvador. In the day’s other game Solomon Islands downed the Netherlands 2-0 in only the fourth match in the competition’s history ever to end with just two goals being scored. The game also saw the tournament’s oldest ever player take to the sand.
A bicycle-kick to remember
Beach soccer serves up more than its fair share of spectacular goals, but it is not every day you see a bicycle kick from the halfway line. Yet that is exactly what Spain’s Antonio produced to level up Spain’s match with USA at 3-3, after the Americans had led from the start. Not surprisingly Antonio’s stunning strike had the fans on their feet.
The haka comes to beach soccer
Known mainly as an ancient Maori war dance designed to intimidate rivals on the battlefield, the haka can also be performed as a show of hospitality to welcome guests, which is just what the Tahiti players did before their game against UAE. The Tiki Toa’s very own version of the dance was created by Heremoana Maamaatuaiahtapu, the president of the Polynesian Cultural Institute, following their victory in the qualifiers for Ravenna 2011, with words being added to the music last year.
You thought you had scored …
As expected, there was a very special atmosphere at the To’ata Stadium for the host nation’s opening match, with 4,000 raucous fans packed into the stands. Cheering every tackle and save, they also leapt up in celebration of a near miss in the first period, when a Tahiti shot fizzed past the post, struck one of the hoardings behind the goal and bounced into the back of net, triggering a huge roar that died away as soon as the crowd realised what had happened. It was not long before they were cheering for real, however, as Raimoana Bennett put the hosts ahead and en route to a famous and much-celebrated win.
Liefden Sr enters the record books
At the age of 46 years and seven months, the Netherlands’ Roel Liefden became the oldest player ever to appear in the tournament, eclipsing Italy’s Maurizio Galli, who was 45 years and two months old when he played at Brazil 2007. Joining Liefden on the pitch on Thursday was his 23-year-old son Diego, who also forms part of the Oranje squad.
5 - The number of times, in seven competitions, that the host nation has kicked off with a victory. Three of those wins were secured by Brazil in 2005, 2006 and 2007, while Italy also got off on the right foot in 2011. The two host nations to come up short in their opening games were France in 2008 and UAE in 2009.
“We came out feeling a little too confident and it cost us the game. Argentina made the most of their chances at the start and then did pretty much as they pleased to run the clock run down. We’ve still got two games to come but we know we can’t afford to slip up again.” El Salvador captain Agustin Ruiz.
Next up, Friday 20 September (local time)*
Japan-Paraguay (16:00, Group D)
Iran-Senegal (17:30, Group C)
Russia-Côte d’Ivoire (19:00, Group D)
Ukraine-Brazil (20:30, Group C)
*All matches to be played at the To’ata Stadium in Papeete.