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Football minnows kick off this year’s World Cup qualifiers as Tahiti beat Papua New Guinea 3-1

Football minnows kick off this year’s World Cup qualifiers as Tahiti beat Papua New Guinea 3-1
Two of international football’s minnows, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti, contested the year’s first qualifying game for the Russia 2018 World Cup on Thursday.

Tahiti came from a goal down to beat the hosts 3-1 in the Round 3, Group B, match held at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

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Despite being reduced to 10 men when starlet David Browne was red-carded on 22 minutes for an elbow to the face, Papua New Guinea took the lead in first-half stoppage time through Nigel Dabinyaba.

However, after the break Sylvain Graglia leveled for Tahiti on 59 minutes and netted again five minutes from normal time.

Teaonui Tehau then scored in second-half stoppage time to seal victory for the visitors.

The result put the tiny French Polynesian island three points clear at the top of Group B in the OFC Stage 3 of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

They now lead the group on six points, ahead of Solomon Islands in second place while Papua New Guinea are rock-bottom in third.  

“It was important for us to win today because with victory winning today we will offer the people back home in Tahiti an important match,” said Tahiti coach Ludovic Graugnard, Oceania Football Confederation reported. 

“If we win at home we can have greater hope that we might qualify,” he added.

Six points behind Tahiti but with two games in hand, the pressure is on Papua New Guinea to win the return game in Papeete on Tuesday.

Thursday’s other 2018 World Cup qualifiers are China v South Korea, Iraq v Australia, Thailand v Saudi Arabia and Syria v Uzbekistan.