x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Confederations Cup: Nigeria thrash Tahiti but Joanathan Tehau dreams

Scores country's first ever goal in a high-profile international competition during their 6-1 defeat.

Jonathan Tehau made history for Tahihi but it was the Nigerians who ended up winners. Washington Alves / Reuters
Jonathan Tehau made history for Tahihi but it was the Nigerians who ended up winners. Washington Alves / Reuters

Nigeria 6 Tahiti 1

Man of the match: Nnamdi Oduamadi

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil // Jonathan Tehau struggled to articulate his joy after becoming the first player to score for Tahiti at a high-profile international tournament in his side's 6-1 defeat to Nigeria at the Confederations Cup.

Ranked 138th in the world, Tahiti are making their first appearance in a competition of this level and despite the margin of defeat in Monday's game, they celebrated Tehau's 54th-minute goal like a victory.

With the score 3-0, Tehau converted a back post-header from a corner before leading his teammates in an imitation of the kayak-paddling celebration performed by Marama Vahirua, their one professional player.

The midfielder, who also works as a delivery driver and plays alongside his twin brothers Lorenzo and Alvin, as well as cousin Teaonui, said his mind had gone blank when the ball hit the net.

"I didn't think of anything. I just celebrated the goal with my friends," said the 25 year old, who also scored an own goal later in the game. "It's just huge. Already, coming here to Brazil, and then scoring the goal, I'm very happy for me, for my family, my friends and my teammates."

Tehau said he hoped the goal would transform his life and when asked to name his ideal club, he replied with a grin: "Why not dream? Barcelona."

For Vahirua, Tehau's goal represented all that Tahiti could have hoped for.

"For us, we've won," he said. "Nobody saw us scoring a goal; nobody but us. From the start, I told my teammates to believe in ourselves.

"Football is never an exact science. We might be amateurs, but in our hearts and our heads, we have to act like professionals. We're proud of ourselves."

Tahiti were backed by the vast majority of the meagre crowd inside Belo Horizonte's Estadio Mineirao, who booed Nigeria's players throughout and celebrated enthusiastically when Tehau scored.

But the winners were Nigeria after Nnamdi Oduamadi claimed a hat-trick on Monday.

The African champions only arrived in Brazil 36 hours before the game after a row over bonus payments, but they could even afford some wasteful finishing as they leapfrogged world champions Spain to the top of Group B.

It was a predictably chastening experience for Tahiti, but they were nonetheless able to celebrate Tehau's goal, which trimmed Nigeria's lead to 3-1 after a deflected Uwa Echiejile shot and a pair of goals from Oduamadi had put Nigeria in command.

However, the south Pacific islanders' hopes of a famous comeback were dashed as Tehau put through his own goal before Oduamadi and Echiejile added further goals to give Stephen Keshi's men a spring in their step ahead of Thursday's crucial showdown with Uruguay.

"It was a little bit difficult to up our game," said Nigeria coach Keshi. "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."

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