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World champs against worst champs


I watched the very intriguing encounter between the strongest and the weakest teams of the 2013 Confederations Cup with great interest.

Without question, unless the improbable happens, Spain are on course to retain their place as world champions, a position they have dominated this past decade. After watching all the teams play up to this point, the big question now is: who can stop Spain?

At the same time, the lowest Fifa-ranked team at the competition, Tahiti, is causing doubts. How did Tahiti qualify from Oceania? They may turn out to become the worst continental representatives in the history of the championship.

When both teams met, it provided the potential of uncommon spectacle, great entertainment and comic relief. The match was a chase to create a new world record: the highest number of goals a country will concede in the Confederations Cup championship?

With all due respect, Tahiti, are on course to become the worst champions to represent a continent. Not even Zaire, in the 1974 World Cup (almost 40 years ago), was that poor in terms of performance.

On the night, Spain fielded one of its weakest teams, played most of the match without its engine room of Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas in their midfield, and fielded Fernando Torres up front.

In my estimation, any team that has Fernando Torres in its line-up cannot be strong. Among authentic goal-scorers in Europe I rank him the lowest. On the night, he threw away more chances than he scored, including an easy penalty kick awarded when his team was under no pressure with an eight-goal cushion.

Even my grandmother would have taken it simpler and easier. So bad was the Tahitian defense-line that even Torres, who has lost sight of the direction to opposing goal, scored four times! Yet, I remain unimpressed. If I were a coach I would not recruit him for Gateway FC Abeokuta.

The lesson drawn from that encounter is a demonstration by Spain of how to manage and play against a team that is very weak and tactically naive, something the Super Eagles did not do well enough.

To start with, Spain played Tahiti with a lot of respect, not toying around with them, and professionally putting in the effort to create and score goals and showing respect to all those watching the game around the world.

They abandoned their traditional Tiki Taka and decided to take a more direct route to goal, with a lot of forward passing, using speed down the wings and ceaseless running around and through the flat defense of the Tahitians.

That way Tahiti were beaten but not humiliated by the Spanish as a result of the serious way they played. Even with 10 goals, the world still appreciated the Tahitians and hailed them as heroes. Why not?

We must constantly remind ourselves about Tahiti. Here is a country whose entire population would not have filled the Maracana of old, the same stadium in Rio where the 1950 World Cup finals took place. With its 200 000 capacity, there would still have been some 30 000 empty seats.

Add to that the fact that its national team is made up of a collection of amateur, part-time players. Give it to them that the players ran and fought but just did not have the ammunition in all departments of the game to cope with the experience of the current champions of the world.

This surely brings into question the standard of football in Oceania.


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