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Tahiti has last chance to delight growing fan base

June 22, 2013

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — The little team with the big heart will have one more chance to entertain its rapidly growing fan base on Sunday at the Confederations Cup.

Tahiti, a team of mostly amateurs that has been outscored 16-1 in their opening two matches at the World Cup warm-up tournament, will face Uruguay at the Arena Pernambuco in their final Group B match.

“We will try to concede as few goals as possible,” Tahiti captain Nicolas Vallars said Saturday. “With the support of the Brazilian public, we will be able to perform even better than we have done so far.”

Although Tahiti has little to play for after being eliminated following a 10-0 drubbing by Spain on Thursday, Uruguay will be expecting all three points as it tries to reach the semifinals.

“We believe it is likely that we will win against Tahiti, but this is not a given before we play the match,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said, perhaps understating his team’s chances.

Despite losing big in their first two matches, the Tahitians have won over the Brazilian public and many other football fans around the globe. With only one professional player in the squad, the South Pacific islanders qualified for the Confederations Cup by winning the Oceania Nations Cup.

Against world champion Spain on Thursday at the Maracana Stadium, Tahiti went on the attack right from the start and looked good despite the end result.

“Tomorrow we will continue as we’ve done. We will try and attack, we will be courageous,” Tahiti coach Eddie Etaeta said. “But we will try to be better organized. ... It’s a good thing to attack, but we’ll have to be more defensive as well.”

Spain, which plays Nigeria at the same time in Fortaleza, leads Group B with six points. Both Uruguay and Nigeria are next with three points, while Tahiti is last with zero.

With all three points from an expected win, Uruguay will assure itself a spot in the semifinals if Spain gets at least a draw against Nigeria.

“In any case, our objective is to win the match,” Tabarez said. “Several times in my career I had to face positions where I had to score. The worst thing you can do is think of the third goal before the first one.”

Uruguay will be expected to have both Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan up front, and both will be capable of pouring in the goals.

Etaeta will be ready for the onslaught.

“I hope to concede fewer goals tomorrow,” Etaeta said, “and to score one more goal, which will be history for us if we can score a second goal in three matches in the Confederations Cup.”

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