RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Only rarely will a 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.
"We are highly realistic," Etaeta said. "It's impossible for us to win against Spain. Our objective it to try to score, or not to be scored against, for half an hour. But maybe we can score one goal and against Spain, even if it's 15 or 20 against one. It's impossible, yes quite impossible."
The Group B match is getting as much attention as any early game in the championship, because of the compelling story of an underdog taking on the best — and because everyone knows what Etaeta says is true.
"For us it's a bit like it's Christmas and we are like children going to the Christmas tree to pick up the presents," Etaeta said.
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 players, nine are unemployed — as is the coach. Others have day jobs as delivery boys, truck drivers, physical education teachers and accountants.
Spain's 23 players are all stars in their own right, regulars on the biggest clubs in Europe. The Iberians won the 2010 World Cup and the last two European championships.
Despite Spain's glitter, Brazilians will be supporting Tahiti again, just as they did in the team's opening loss to Nigeria 6-1. Brazilians love the beach and palm trees and have taken to the red and white flowery shirts worn by the Tahitians around the hotel and after practice.
"We expect to be supported by everyone in the Maracana," Tahiti forward Steevy Chong-Hue said.
Iniesta and Del Bosque promised there would be no letting up against Tahiti. This would be disrespectful, they said.
"The best sign of respect for a football player is that the rival takes the game seriously and plays seriously," Iniesta said. "We respect them like any other team. We're going to play and try to win and score goals. For their part, they'll try not to let in goals and score."
Del Bosque said the game will be just like any other, except that he will rest many of his regulars and start one of his back-up goalkeepers: Victor Valdes or Pepe Reina.
"This is an opportune time for those who didn't play the other day, to play," Del Bosque said.
Even with that, the Tahiti coach knows his side will seldom touch the ball.
And Spain defender Raul Albiol was clear what will mean.
"Always the more goals, the better," he said.
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