World Cup champion Spain expected to crush Tahiti
Europeans defeated Uruguay Sunday
There's one big question hanging over Spain's team at the Confederations Cup: how many goals will the World Cup champions score in their upcoming match against tiny Tahiti, the representative for Oceania.
African champions Nigeria defeated the South Pacific islanders 6-1 in their opening game, and missed at least half a dozen easy chances.
Spain is expected to make a few changes in Thursday's Group B match, but may stick with many of its regulars.
Spanish winger Pedro was put on the spot several times Tuesday about the number of goals Spain would score, and his reply was diplomatic saying repeatedly: "I don't know, I don't know."
Tahiti coach: impossible to beat Spain
You'll never hear another coach talk as frankly as Tahiti's Eddy Etaeta, acknowledging in public what everyone knows.
He says it's "impossible" his team of amateurs will defeat World Cup champion Spain on Thursday in the Confederations Cup, a mismatch if ever there was one.
The coach went a step farther. Spain could score 15 or 20 goals against his South Pacific islanders at Rio's Maracana stadium, even though Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque promised to use reserve players and rest captain and No. 1 goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Del Bosque and midfielder Andres Iniesta said Spain would not hold back. They said doing so would show a lack of respect for Tahiti, a nation of only 180,000 which is representing Oceania in the eight-team warm-up for next year's World Cup.
— The Associated Press
It's difficult to imagine a mismatch much larger than this one.
"It's true we're the clear favourites," Pedro said politely. "But all games are tough and you have to play them as such. For sure, Tahiti will try to make it difficult for us. It's an important game for us, and we have to respect the opponent. You have to play the game instead of saying we are going to win and score such-and-such number of goals."
A little bit of a mismatch
Spain is ranked No. 1 in FIFA's rankings and won the 2010 World Cup and the last two European championships.
Tahiti is No. 138, trapped between Syria and Afghanistan.
Spain's 23 players are regulars at big European club teams, and many are starters at Barcelona and Real Madrid, arguably the two most powerful club teams on earth.
Tahiti has one professional player. That's Marama Vahirua, a striker with Greek club Panthrakikos. He is the only Tahitian to ever play professionally outside the island.
Of its 23, nine are unemployed — as is coach Eddie Etaeta. Others have day jobs as delivery boys, truck drivers, physical education teachers and accountants.
"It's not a simple game against Spain because they are world champions," Tahiti defender Nicolas Vallar said. "We will try to do the best. ... not to concede more than six (goals)."
If Tahiti is a little-known football playing nation, so are the other members — excepting New Zealand — of the Oceania confederation.
They are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu. Associate members are Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Niue Islands.
The match will be played at Rio's renovated Maracana stadium. It held the final game of the 1950 World Cup with a crowd estimated at between 170,000 and 200,000. The stadium capacity has been reduced to 78,000.
For comparison, the population of the South Pacific island is only 180,000.
Tahiti is probably most famous for the paintings of Paul Gauguin, who depicted the people and landscapes of the island.
Reporters ask Pedro at least four times about the outcome. He dodged the question each time.
"Like I said, you have to give them respect. I don't know if it's going to be a lopsided result, or not."
Many are expecting one.