A 1-0 victory over New Caledonia in the final of the OFC Nations Cup last June sees Tahiti enter the Confederations Cup as the ultimate underdogs. The Oceanic champions are primarily a group of amateurs and they'll be relishing the prospect of rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in the world in what will be their debut appearance in the tournament.
Coach and System
Since taking over the national side in 2010, Eddy Etaeta has worked tirelessly to transform his squad of amateurs into a decent international unit. Despite failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Etaeta has kept his job for the progress the team have made under him that's invited praise from their supporters. In many ways, participating in the Confederations Cup is the culmination of the former Tahitian international's hard work.
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Tahiti have consistently set up in a 4-4-2 formation during Etaeta's regime but the word is that they're going to deviate from that system for this competition in favour of a more defensive approach against their undoubtedly superior opponents.
Their biggest strength during that successful Oceanic triumph last year was their defense. Their center back and captain Nicolas Vallar was voted the best player of the tournament and he'll have to be on top form for them now as well.
It's likely that they will employ a flat 4-5-1 formation and try to get most bodies behind the ball. Not only is 'parking the bus' a viable strategy for the Tahitians, it may be the only one.
Their most high-profile player in the squad is Marama Vahirua who is a striker for Nancy. However, the 33 year old has spent most of his time playing as a winger of late and that may be his role with Tahiti as well.
Steevy Chong Hue could be the man to lead the line. At only 23, he has the energy to play in what could turn out to be the most isolated position on the field. With 11 goals in 22 games for his country, he's an able finisher as well.
Heimano Bourebare lines up as the anchor in a packed midfield but might find himself playing more as a sweeper once the whistle blows. The Oceanic side will do their best to frustrate their opponents, feed on any scraps on the break and try to make the most of set pieces that may come their way.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: The biggest thing the Tahitians have going for them is that they have nothing to prove. Their mere participation is a victory and anything they achieve in Brazil from a shot at goal to winning a corner or even getting on the scoresheet will be celebrated by their fans. The pressure is off, they have nothing to lose and perhaps a bit of glory to gain should they manage an upset. Their team spirit, hard work, valiant defending and heart will be their greatest assets.
Weaknesses: Speaking from a strictly techinical point of view, Tahiti are significantly weaker than every other side in the competition in every aspect of their game. They're likely to camp inside their own half and every 10-15 minute period they go without conceding a goal will be a small victory.
Star man: Marama Vahirua
Marama Vahirua has plenty of experience in Europe or France to be more precise. The Nancy forward has previously played for Nantes, Nice and Lorient while he's recently spent loan spells at Monaco and Greek side Panthrakikos. In 359 club appearances, he's notched up 76 goals.
He's easily the biggest name in the Tahiti squad and if they manage to score a goal, chances are that he will be involved. He may feature on the right wing but can always swap positions with Chong Hue. He's also known to be good at direct free-kicks and penalties and so will most likely shoulder those responsiblities. The forward turned out for the France Under-21s in his youth and this will be his first appearance for Tahiti.
|What do you make of Tahiti's chances? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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