Hienghene is the first side from New Caledonia to appear in the finals of the FIFA World Club Cup after the Pacific Islanders won the UFC Champions League. And they had to work hard for that historic success with several tough encounters on the path to their maiden OFC Champions League success.
The team, which is located in the remote North Province, topped their group with two wins and a draw. A 2-1 extra-time win over Fiji side Ba, in the quarter-final earned a tough semi-final tie with Team Wellington. It was a daunting prospect for Hienghene, who were in what was only their second Champions League competition, but they shocked all and sundry by beating the holders, 2-0, on their own patch before finishing the job with a 1-0 home victory for a comprehensive aggregate victory.
Felix Tagawa is regarded as one of the greatest ever New Caledonia players. He had a long career as a player and a coach and, as a striker, was one of the few Pacific Islanders to play professional football in Australia. Tagawa led Hienghene to their maiden title in 2017 and then to the greatest achievement ever by a Melanesian football side, the FIFA World Club Cup.
Hienghene are defensively sound as they demonstrated by conceding just two goals in their six Championship League matches. They can score goals as well but doubtful if they will ever see a repeat of the `Beckhamesque` goal by Amy Antoine Roine which won the Oceania Final. From 10 yards INSIDE his own half the substitute fired a howitzer of a shot that gave the opposing keeper, Magenta`s Steve Ixoee, who was way off his line, no chance. Indeed, the ball`s first bounce was behind the `keeper before entering the net. Hienghene have a host of players with international experience, notably Bertrand Kai, a powerful forward. He may be 36 but is one of only two New Caledonia players to be named Oceania Footballer of the Year. He has a more than impressive scoring record of 23 goals in his 41 international appearances.
Hienghene also have a number of players who have represented their country in Beach Soccer, which is `andy but I wonder how useful it will be on grass.