Hungry Tahiti eye future success
Tahiti will return to the world stage following their unlikely Brazil 2013 bow
Qualification success provides “motivation” and “incentive” for young Tahitians
French Polynesians aim to build on recent strong OFC performances
Six years ago, Tahiti made Pacific football history by unexpectedly winning the Oceania championship, and subsequently appearing among the other continental champions at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. It was an unlikely milestone moment, but one which shone a global spotlight on the French Polynesians.
The genesis of that success was created years earlier when the nation qualified for the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Eqypt, with numerous players graduating to the senior team and even the nation’s famed beach soccer side. Now Tahiti have not only reprised that success by winning through to Poland 2019, but they hope it will be another platform for future ground-breaking achievements at senior level.
Tahiti at major tournaments
FIFA Confederations Cup (2013)
FIFA U-20 World Cup (2009, 2019)
Tahiti qualified for Poland 2019 thanks to a runners-up finish on home soil in August. Qualification was secured with a semi-final win over Solomon Islands, followed by a tight 1-0 defeat against New Zealand in the continental decider.
It is the third U-20 World Cup in succession in which OFC will be represented by two nations. New Zealand have featured throughout that period, and the island nations have also performed with distinction, considering their limited resources.
Vanuatu lost by a single-goal to heavyweights Germany and Mexico at Korea Republic 2017, while Fiji collected a stunning 3-0 win over Honduras two years earlier.
For Tahiti, the trip to Poland next May could barely be any further, culturally or geographically. For now though, the Toa Aito await their fate at the 24 February draw in Gdynia.
Tahiti coach Bruno Tehaamoana, who has four members of his young squad currently playing in France, is optimistic that the current generation can provide a boost to the senior side, as was the case a decade ago.
“We have young players who have a really good potential in French Polynesia,” Tehaamoana told FIFA.com. “Of course there are the ones who play for French football clubs, and I hope they will succeed and turn professional at some point.
“[In addition] there are at least five in the squad who I hope will be future key players of the national team. If they all carry on playing and training hard in their 20’s, I think that they can become good elements of the national team.”
“I think this qualification will push the generations below who want to become football players,” added Tehaamoana, who is a well known figure in Tahitian football after a long playing and coaching career.
“Seeing the U-20 team playing at a World Cup provides added incentive for the U-16 national team, who wish to have the same opportunity in two-three years to be part of such an epic and memorable moment such as the one we had last August.
“Success like this provides motivation for the youth and it can increase the number of players for the federation. I think that it is major positive, and that World Cup qualification is a source of development for future of football and especially for young players.”
Oceania FIFA U-20 World Cup qualifiers
Tonga perform a haka at the OFC U-20 Championship
Tonga perform a haka at the OFC U-20 Championship (Image courtesy OFC via Phototek)
Solomon Islands team line-up at the 2018 OFC U-19 Championship
Solomon Islands team line-up at the 2018 OFC U-19 Championship (Image courtesy OFC via Phototek)