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Tahiti's 10-goal loss was a 10-goal win
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Some Tahitians stood in the center of a soccer Mecca in Rio de Janeiro about 10 feet away from the history's most dominant and talented national team.

Those 10 feet eventually would tell more of a story than you'd think. Spain, the defending World Cup champions and two-time Euro Cup champions, has enough talent to, well, handily defeat a group from Tahiti 10-0 in a major international soccer tournament.

They did that. The Spaniards could have scored 20 if they wanted, but saw something more important than a result on the pitch in Maracana, Brazil's Fenway Park of soccer stadiums.

It was a group of amateur players taking on the ultimate. Imagine Tahiti taking on Team USA basketball at the Summer Olympic Games.

Kind of like that.

But the Tahitians didn't pack the box and muck up the match. They played a high line, attempting to catch the Spaniards offside more often than not.

It was more often that Spain scored than not. Fernando Torres had four goals. David Villa had three. But the team made up of accountants, teachers and cellphone salesman played hard and relished every chance they got. Goalkeeper Mikael Roche is a physical education teacher back in Tahiti. He was in goal when Spain's assault began and was there when it ended.

He fumbled a simple through ball that resulted in a goal, then stood tall on a handful of occasions, punching away point-blank shots. When Tahiti was whistled for a handball in the box, Torres' penalty attempt went high and right and pinged off the crossbar and out of play.

Roche smiled and raised his hands into the Rio night in celebration.

We see sports both as en excuse and as an escape, as a novelty and a novel to see and read stories written by those we wouldn't always see or hear from. Tahiti and its roughly 125,000 citizens were on full display in the Confederations Cup against the defending World Cup champions.

They are the darlings of the tournament, albeit for a sure exit after an 0-2 start currently including a minus-15 goal differential.

The Tahitians, trailing by a touchdown and a field goal late in the match against Spain, tried mightily to score, the adoring crowd at the Maracana rising to their feet when the ball would trickle into Spain's box.

That goal never came. Tahiti lost by 10 goals, but walked off the pitch arm in arm with the best team to ever play.

An appropriate salute.

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani

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