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Tahiti triumph in first friendly

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Tahiti's Teva Zaveroni challenges France captain Jérémy Basquaise. (Photo: NZDMax)
Tahiti’s beach soccer team, the Tiki Toa, have beaten France 8-3 in the first of three friendly matches in Papeete seven months out from the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, to be staged in Tahiti in September.

The match marks the beginning of an intense and demanding schedule of training and international matches for the Tahitians as they lead up to the world cup.

The side has been working closely with Switzerland national team coach and FIFA instructor Angelo Schirinzi and the results of the heavy training schedule were evident at the Jardins de Paofai in front of hundreds of home fans.

Ahead of the match Schirinzi said he had spent his time with the squad working on their techniques, tactics and their fitness.

“We have been working as professionals would. We have been training every day from 5am until 7am and after that we have eaten together. It has been tremendous and I think we are going to win,” Schirinzi said.

“To be successful you need to be very motivated, have a good mentality and cannot be scared of other players. We know we are strong and we are going to have a great match.”

In the early minutes of the match France appeared to have the advantage, though the early shots saw the keepers tested at both ends of the field.

France eventually got the scoring underway midway through the first leg following a foul on Les Bleus captain Jérémy Basquaise who went on to convert the penalty.

The home side reacted quickly with three quick-fire goals from Naea Bennett, Angelo Tchen and Raimoana Bennett to make it 3-1.

The hosts remained dominant in the second stage with Tiki Toa captain Naea Bennett earning his side a penalty two minutes into the match. However he failed to convert, the shot rebounding off the left upright.

Several minutes later Heimanu Tauarui successfully converted a penalty to make it 4-1 to the Tahitians. Les Bleus responded swiftly with a successful strike from Anthony Fayos before Marama Amau scored the Tiki Toa’s fifth goal, from a penalty.

Basquaise got one back for the visitors early in the final third of the match, but the French reaction proved too little too late as the Tahitians put away three more through Tearii Labaste, Teva Zaveroni and a second for Naea Bennett.

Skipper Bennett said his side's preparations for the match had a huge hand in their success against a strong French outfit.

“We know that when we respect the instructions of the coach everything will go well. That’s what allowed us to dominate the match,” Bennett said.

“Friday will be another difficult match and they will want to take their revenge.”

Meanwhile France player-coach Stéphane François said his side is in Tahiti to redevelop and that with many new players in the squad he is not surprised by the final result.

“The Tahitians are very good, they have been training for a number of months while our team trained together for the first time on Sunday,” François says.

“This series is going to allow us to see which of the players can continue to play at a high level with the French team. We are not ready physically or tactically.

But we can catch up in two days. In any case, I am not surprised by the excellent level of the Tahitian game.”

The sides will meet twice more, on February 22 and 23, with the third and final match set to inaugurate the new pitch at Stade Willy Bambridge, where the official match ball for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 will be unveiled.