Tahiti was the first Oceania national team to leave the continent to work their preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers. On French soil they faced Cognac of the National 3, the fifth tier of French football.
Cognac is coached by Thierry Sardo, who was in charge of New Caledonia’s national team for seven years. This is reflected in the French club’s squad which features three New Caledonian internationals: Cesar Zeoula, Joris Kenon, and the brother of legend Georges Gope-Fenepej, Paul Gope-Fenepej.
On the field, in the first 45 minutes we saw a spectacular performance from Samuel Garcia’s side, Teaouni Tehau’s hattrick put the Polynesians in a comfortable 3-1 lead. In the second half Samuel Garcia made a lot of changes and saw the team suffer three goals – with including two penalty goals in less than two minutes by the home team. Even so, the Tahitian coach did not regret the defeat:
“We arrived at the beginning of the week in Cognac where we were very well received and we would like to thank our hosts. We had sunshines and the cold is bearable, so the conditions are good. I am very happy with the adaptation of my players. Concerning the match, I wanted to play two teams. The first one won 3-1 and the second one lost 3-0. The idea was that the players could have 45 minutes in the legs. If these two teams were not balanced, the objective was really to mobilize everyone and see how we can improve. Tonight, I do not care about the score. I am satisfied with what all my boys did, we saw some very nice things. We have to take into account the fatigue of the trip and we knew that we would not be at 100% today. We did not lose the sight of our objective, it remains March 17. Cognac is a step for us to get to that date.”
Tahiti still return to the field against Ligue 2’s Rodez and will also play Occitania national team – a CONIFA member – before traveling to Qatar.