By Mike Collett
Spain won by a landslide as expected but tiny Tahiti emerged with their reputations enhanced and their dignity intact despite their 10-0 loss to the world and European champions in the Confederations Cup on Thursday.
Fernando Torres scored four times, and missed a penalty, David Villa hit three, David Silva two and Juan Mata one as Spain scored double figures for the third time in their history.
The outcome of one of the most unlikely matches to take place in a senior FIFA competition was never in doubt and even Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta said before the game his side’s chances of winning were “quite impossible”.
Despite the Group B hammering, Tahiti played some attractive attacking football against a second-string Spain side that still contained some of the biggest names in European football including Sergio Ramos and Pepe Reina.
“Often inferior teams look to break up the game and get aggressive, they play without spirit or hope. Standards aside,Tahiti showed a great example of how to go about playing football,” Torres told Spain’s Telecinco television after a record Confederations Cup victory.
“We have tried to show them respect in every sense. We tried to play well, to play simple football, and to score goals and these goals will be important for the next stage.”
Tahiti’s first meeting with European opposition was more of an occasion than a match in many respects, and the fans created a superb atmosphere in the newly refurbished Maracana, the venue for next year’s World Cup final.
They cheered every Tahiti pass and tackle and roundly booed Spain.
Two of the loudest cheers were for two fine saves made by 20-year-old Tahiti goalkeeper Mikael Roche midway through the second half with his side already 7-0 down.
The first goal arrived after only five minutes when Torres scored in the huge gap which Roche left between himself and the near post.
Tahiti, who lost 6-1 to Nigeria first up and next face Uruguay on Sunday, kept Spain at bay for the next 26 minutes and weaved some neat passing moves together with Teheivarii Ludivon providing some of the best distribution for his side.
But they were unable to make any real impact on the Spanish defence apart from a fine angled shot from Ricky Aitamai just before halftime.
By then Spain were already well in control and leading 4-0 with Silva, Torres and Villa all finding the target in an eight-minute spell.
But despite Spain’s obvious superiority against the Oceania champions, who are ranked 138th in the world, the amateurs from the South Pacific never stopped trying to play football to the delight of the 71,000-plus crowd.
Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla even earned himself a booking for a clumsy challenge in the first half, which ended with the crowd cheering Tahiti off.
Spain flexed their muscles after the break with Villa adding two more and Torres one in the first 15 minutes of the second half before Mata made it eight when he got a lucky deflection after a one-two with David Silva.
Torres then missed a penalty after 78 minutes, prompting a huge cheer from the crowd, but got his fourth goal and Spain’s ninth a minute later when he rounded Roche to score.
Silva made it double figures in the 89th minute after another move that slit open the Tahiti defence.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque, whose side beat Uruguay in their opener and next play Nigeria on Sunday, said: “We played a good game, we took it seriously and our superiority was evident.
“I don’t think the stadium were against Spain. I think it was more to do with things beyond the stadium. We have seen in the previous game, and in the street, everyone has shown us great affection.”
Protests about the cost of living and the cost of the World Cup have rocked Brazil in recent days.
In the day’s late match Diego Forlan celebrated his 100th cap with a goal at the start of the second half to secure Uruguay a 2-1 win over Nigeria and all but guarantee their place in next week’s semi-finals.
The result continued Uruguay’s undefeated record against African opponents in 12 encounters and left them hot favourites to join Spain in the last four.
By Mike Collett