Oceania’s newly crowned beach soccer champions believe the region should have more teams at the World Cup.
Tahiti pipped Solomon Islands 4-3 in the final of the OFC Beach Soccer Cup last weekend to qualify for the World Cup in Paraguay later this year.
The Tiki Toa had not won a regional title since 2011, although they were absent when the event was last held six years ago.
Head coach Naea Bennett says the triumph in Papeete meant a lot to the Tahiti team.
“It was very important to us because since 2011 we didn’t participate in this competition so it was very good for us to be back again in the competition and to win it at home we are very happy,” Naea Bennet said.
Mr Bennett was a part of the Tahitian team that finished fourth at the 2013 World Cup on home soil and reached the final in 2015 and 2017.
The 41 year old has now hung up his boots for good, along with fellow veterans Teva Zaveroni (43) and Raimoana Bennett (38), and says with a few new faces in the team it’s too soon to say if they’ll be able to replicate their past performances.
“It’s hard to answer this question but I think the first thing we have to focus is on our preparation and then I think the first step is to be qualfied from the first round. If we can qualify for the quarter finals it will be already good for this new team,” he said.
Tahiti will attend their fifth Beach Soccer World Cup in November, matching the mark set by Solomon Islands back in 2013.
After pushing the Tiki Toa all the way last weekend, Naea Bennett believes the Bilikiki deserve to also compete on the world stage.
“We already know that Solomons was a very good team because we don’t forget that they were before us qualified five times for the World Cup so we wasn’t surprised of the performance they gave in the final,” Naea Bennet said.
“And it’s good for Oceania to have teams who have a good level to make the level improve for every country in Oceania…I think Oceania should ask for a second team for Oceania.”