Tahiti on Confederations Cup mission

Belo Horizonte, June 9 (IANS) The prospect of confronting a team boasting of football stars like Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta is enough to strike fear into any opposing coach. Unless his name is Eddy Etaeta.

The 43-year-old Tahiti manager and his players have already marked down June 20 as a date they will cherish for the rest of their lives, reports Xinhua.

It is the day the Pacific island minnows face World Cup and European champions Spain in their Confederations Cup Group B match at Brazil’s temple of football, the Maracana stadium.

The outcome is irrelevant.

“We don’t have anything to lose,” Etaeta said Saturday, just hours after arriving here, where his side will prepare for the eight-team tournament.

“It will be unbelievable to play against Iniesta and Xavi at the Maracana. I really hope we can score a goal against them, even though we know it’s going to be difficult. We also wanted to be able to play against Brazil, and Neymar, but we haven’t had that luck.”

Tahiti, whose squad mostly comprises of amateurs, qualified for the Confederations Cup by virtue of a 1-0 victory over New Caledonia in the 2012 Oceania Nations Cup final.

Ranked 138th by football’s governing body FIFA, Tahiti made an inauspicious start to their Confederations Cup preparations by losing 0-7 to Chile’s under-20s last week.

Etaeta described the result as a “spanking”, vowing more spirited displays await their opponents in Brazil.

Besides Spain, Etaeta’s team have been drawn in the same group as Africa Cup of Nations winners Nigeria and Copa America holders Uruguay.

“People have tipped us to lose every game,” Etaeta said. “Our greatest merit is the fact we are here representing our country in this competition. Just being here is a dream for us.”

When asked about his players’ early impressions of Brazil, the coach revealed they almost felt like they were home due to several cultural similarities. There is, however, one stark difference.

“Our countries have some things in common like our tradition for dance and music. Brazilians have great beaches and so do we, as well as great festivals. But we are in awe at how big football is here. Football is popular in Tahiti but nothing like it is here.”

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