16 Nov 2018

Sport: Under-strength Tiki Toa struggle in Dubai

3:53 pm on 16 November 2018

A lack of depth was exposed in the Tahiti beach soccer team which finished dead last at the Intercontinental Cup in Dubai.

The Tiki Toa, who finished runners up at the past two Beach Soccer World Cups, could only manage one win in five games in the UAE.

Heimanu Taiarui in action for Tahiti.

Heimanu Taiarui in action for Tahiti. Photo: Beach Soccer Worldwide

An opening 7-6 defeat by Russia was followed by a 4-2 loss against Iran - who would go on to beat the Russians in the grand final.

A 7-6 victory over the USA in their final group match provided a rare bright spot before the French Territory were crushed 9-1 by Spain and let a four goal lead slip in Saturday's seventh place playoff against the UAE, who prevailed 7-6 in front of their home crowd.

Tahiti were without four regular starters for the annual tournament and head coach Angelo Schirinzi said the absence of star goalkeeper Jonathan Torohia was a significant blow to their chances.

"The best goalkeeper of the world in 2015 was not able to come so we have a big problem because in the first match the second goalkeeper was injured and then we had to play with the third one but he had no experience at all so we had a big problem."

"He was not coming to Dubai because he had to play a football match [or his club team]in Tahiti - his president didn't want to let him go and this is a big problem," lamented the Swiss coach, who led the French Territory to a fourth-place finish at the 2013 Beach Soccer World Cup on home soil.

"A lack of priority to this team: the Tiki Toa made a lot of success in the last years so I can't understand why they didn't let him go.

"If you have a Tahitian player who got number one in the world in 2015 for me it's a big surprise that he can not liberate himself to doing the Intercontinental Cup in Dubai - I'm sure he will come again for next year and if not Tahiti will face big problems in future."

Tahiti beach soccer team

Tahiti finished runners up at the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup. Photo: AFP

Another member of Tahiti's golden generation, Naea Bennett, found himself thrust into the action in Dubai following a run of injuries, despite the 41 year old having retired from playing to focus on coaching roles with the Toa Aito 11-a-side and Tiki Toa national teams.

"He didn't want to play but as we had a lot of injuries and we had to react," said Schirinzi.

"The other problem was the five new players - we don't expect to let them play all the matches but as we had one two injuries...so they had to play and then after that it was very difficult.

"In the physical aspect of the new players it was very difficult because they were not expected to play on this high level for this long time and then we had to play with Naea as goalkeeper against Spain and this was absolutely not good."

"...The last match against UAE we were 6-2 ahead but nevertheless we lost this match in the last three minutes by lack of experience and so on. The first objective of this tournament was to play the young players but of course we expected better results."

Angelo Schirinzi (L) playing for the Switzerland national beach soccer team in Dubai in 2011.

Angelo Schirinzi (L) playing for the Switzerland national beach soccer team in Dubai in 2011. Photo: AFP

Despite a difficult week in the UAE, Angelo Schirinzi believed the Tiki Toa can still compete with the best teams in the world provided they can put their best team out on the sand.

"I'm sure that two or three players of these new players will be included in the Tiki Toa team [next year]- this is no doubt - but of course they need also the old guys, the experienced guys like Torohia and so on and Patrick Tepa but he was injured," he said.

Tahiti will host the OFC Beach Soccer Championship in June, with the winner to represent Oceania at the 2019 World Cup in Paraguay at the end of next year.