Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta isn’t one to get distracted by small things, like being overwhelmed 10-0 by World Cup winner Spain on Thursday in the Confederations Cup.
He’s used to looking for the positive. He predicted Spain might score as many as 20 - and they didn’t.
With that achievement, he’s focused on another - the World Cup. Tahiti has already been eliminated from qualifying for the next year World Cup in Brazil.
“But there’s another one in 2018 and in 2022, so we have to be realistic and work to develop professional players abroad,” he said. “I hope when we get back to Tahiti we’ll get more respect and support from out population.”
The South Pacific islanders had it in Brazil despite the Spanish onslaught.
Fernando Torres, who missed a penalty late in the match, scored four goals. David Villa added three goals, David Silva two and Juan Mata one.
Tahiti was the crowd favourite at the Maracana stadium with Brazilians wildly cheering the underdogs and jeering Spain. When Spanish midfielder Mata tried to score with a bicycle kick with the score at 4-0, the effort was met with loud booing.
Torres’ miss from a penalty also drew wild cheers. The ball bounced off the crossbar and Tahiti keeper Mikael Roche raised his hands in celebration — as if he’d stopped it. That also drew thunderous applause.
“They (Brazilians) are always on the side of the underdog, meaning Tahiti,” Del Bosque said. “I believe the fans respected the show and enjoyed the match.”
The winning margin was the largest in a Confederations Cup match. The previous record margin was six, when Brazil beat Saudi Arabia 8-2 in 1999 and when Brazil beat Australia 6-0 in 1997.
The game had the tone of a practice game – or a friendly. Even before it began, the outcome was never in doubt. The spirit was set by Etaeta, who put a flower lei, or necklace, around the neck of Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque.
Etaeta, who called playing Spain a “Christmas present,” said before the match that Spain might score 15 or 20 goals.
“We lost 10-0 but we won the hearts of the Brazilian public. So obrigado, obrigados a tudos,” he said after the game, saying ‘Thank You everyone’ in Portuguese. Etaeta said it was frustrating that his team was now better known in Brazil than at home.
Del Bosque defended Tahiti’s place in the tournament, despite some criticizing the inclusion of the tiny island with only 180,000 residents.
“They are the champions of Oceania,” Del Bosque said. “That’s football. They did what they had to do and they deserved to be here. We are not the ones to decide.”
Tahitian players also draped trinkets around the neck of the Spanish players just before the start, another gesture of friendship and respect for the Spanish side.
Tahiti attacked from the start and was just 1-0 down after 15 minutes, hardly an illustration of the gulf between the world champions and a team made up of amateurs who hold down day jobs. But that did not last long, with Spain leading 4-0 at the break.
The match was lopsided, but there have been worse.
Spain added six in the second half and could easily have added plenty more.
The game burst into life with Villa’s goal in the 49th, then Torres in the 57th followed by Villa again seven minutes later.
The Tahitians tired as the game wore on and only found their way into the Spanish half a handful of times. Keeper Mikael Roche let in 10, but still made several sprawling saves.
“They would have loved to have scored one single goal,” Etaeta said. “It didn’t happen, there’s something missing really. They’re a bit disappointed.” Tahiti had conceded naive goals, he said.
The victory for Spain goes with a 2-1 win over Uruguay in the opener. Tahiti lost 6-1 to Nigeria in its opener.
The largest margin of victory in a FIFA match came in 2001, when Australia beat American Samoa 31-0 in Oceania qualifying for the World Cup.
In the World Cup, the record is nine, set three times. Hungary beat South Korea 9-0 in 1954, Yugoslavia routed Zaire 9-0 in 1974 and Hungary defeated El Salvador 10-1 in 1982.
The biggest rout in football happened in 2002 when Stade Olympique de l’Emyrne scored 149 own-goals in a match against AS Adema in Madagascar in protest of what it claimed was partial refereeing. AS Adema won 149-0.