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Tahiti make history despite thumping defeat to Nigeria in Confed Cup

updated 5:54 PM EDT, Mon June 17, 2013
Tahiti's player celebrate Jonathan Tehau's historic goal in their 6-1 defeat to Nigeria in the Confederations Cup.
Tahiti's player celebrate Jonathan Tehau's historic goal in their 6-1 defeat to Nigeria in the Confederations Cup.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nigeria beat Tahiti 6-1 in Group B opener at Confederations Cup
  • Nnamdi Oduamadi scores a hat-rick in Belo Horizonte
  • 138th-ranked Tahiti reply through Jonathan Tehau
  • South Pacific minnows next play world champions Spain in Maracana

(CNN) -- Tahiti were handed a harsh introduction to the Confederations Cup as African champions Nigeria inflicted a 6-1 defeat on the minnows Monday.

But the team from the South Pacific at least had the consolation of scoring a memorable first goal in a senior FIFA competition to the delight of the crowd in the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte.

Trailing 3-0 in the 54th minute, a corner was met by Jonathan Tehau, who headed home emphatically.

It was no more than Tahiti deserved for a spirited display and they celebrated in trademark style by forming a circle and pretending to use canoe paddles.

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But 15 minutes later, Tehau, one of three brothers in the squad, then undid his heroics by turning Nigeria's fourth past his own goalkeeper.

Nnamdi Oduamadi went on to complete his hat-trick for the Super Eagles and Uwa Echiejile grabbed his second to complete the rout, but even at the final whistle all the plaudits were for Tahiti and they went of a lap of honor.

The tiny nation of less than 200,000 people had qualified for the Confederations Cup by winning the Oceania Nations Cup, beating the might of New Caledonia in the final after favorites New Zealand had exited at the semifinal stage.

Boasting only one full time professional, few had given them much of a chance against Nigeria, who have a population of over 160 million and have a clutch of players from leading European clubs.

Read: Confed Cup wins for Spain and Italy

Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta and his players showed visible signs of emotion as their national anthem was played -- each of them with flowers around their neck -- a national custom.

Nigeria had arrived late on Sunday for the competition, reportedly as a result of a dispute of bonus payments, and despite the scoreline, would have left coach Stephen Keshi with some concerns.

Tahiti immediately took the game to them, but Nigeria went ahead after just five minutes due to a huge slice of fortune as Echiejile's shot took a big deflection off Nicolas Vallar before finding its way into the net.

Oduamadi scored two more before halftime, but at the other end Tahiti also had opportunities.

I was deeply moved, almost crying. We watch World Cups on TV. Today we were actors. Tahiti was watching
Eddy Etaeta

Tehau's goal was undoubtedly the highlight but the 138th ranked team in the world will have their work cut out with further Group B fixtures against world champions Spain and Copa America winners Uruguay.

Etaeta told the official FIFA website that his team's first appearance on the international stage had been a dream come true.

"I was deeply moved, almost crying. We watch World Cups on TV. Today we were actors. Tahiti was watching. Our president sent us a message and suspended a cabinet meeting for it."

Spain won their opener against Uruguay 2-1 Sunday and play Tahiti Thursday in the Maracana Stadium in Rio.

Uruguay and Nigeria also meet then in a match likely to decide second spot in the group.

Keshi knows they will need to improve on their display in the opener.

"It was a little bit difficult to up our game," he told AFP.

"When you know you're playing against, with all due respect, the Tahiti team, you think everything's easy. They showed us that they can play football. Congratulations to them."

Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Italy make up Group A of a tournament which is contested every four years by the winners of FIFA's six confederations, plus the hosts and the reigning World Cup champions.

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