The semi-final line-up at Tahiti 2013 has been completed following a tense matchday, highlighted by the hosts' sensational victory over Argentina. The three other contests were extremely tight affairs, with Brazil, Spain and world champions Russia narrowly prevailing at the expense of Japan, El Salvador and Iran.
Tahiti created a slice of history for Oceania football by becoming the first nation from the confederation, aside from former member Australia, to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament. The Tiki Toa will battle Russia for a berth in the final after the Europeans edged out Iran with a come-from-behind 6-5 win.
Earlier, four-time winners Brazil were pushed to the very last second of their encounter with Japan only to sneak home by the odd goal in seven. Spain endured a similarly tough encounter with El Salvador and it took a sumptuous bicycle kick from Antonio three minutes from full time to separate the two teams.
Tahiti’s bittersweet evening
The normally sleepy French Polynesia capital of Papeete has surely never witnessed anything like it. A few hundred extra seats were added to the To’ata stadium and were immediately filled for the hottest ticket in town, and new local heroes Tiki Toa duly delivered in breathtaking fashion against South America kings Argentina in front of a delirious crowd. On the debit side was a serious facial injury for defender Angelo Tchen, while they also have personnel facing suspension.
Few had a day like Japan star Ozu Moreira. Born within kicking distance of the Copacabana beach – by some definitions the spiritual home of beach soccer – Ozu as he is widely known had the rare opportunity to play against the country of his birth. And did he make the most of the opportunity, scoring one, setting up another, hitting the post and having a shot cleared off the line in a powerhouse display from the player of the tournament in the Asian qualifiers. But make no mistake where his loyalties are with Ozu, who is fluent in Japanese, with a passionate kissing of the badge after scoring.
Argentina fail to crack last four
Something had to give in the second quarter-final of the day as Argentina sought to break their absence from the semi-finals, despite being just one of three nations to have appeared at every tournament. On the other side was Tahiti were looking to become the first Pacific Islands nations to progress to the semi-finals of any global tournament. Argentina, who headed into the tournament as reigning South American champions for the first time, were unable to keep pace with a dynamic Tahiti who showed flair and power in equal measure.
7 – Brazil kept up their record of progressing to the semi- finals at every edition of the FIFA beach Soccer World Cup.
“Tonight Tahiti is in semi final, nobody ever thought that it could be possible. We now enter into the history books of our country and we dedicate this victory to all people of Polynesia.” Tahiti goalkeeper Jonathan Torohia