Fernando Torres, who knows a thing or two about failure on a football pitch, was full of praise for amateur opponents Tahiti after scoring four goals in Spain's 10-0 Confederations Cup win on Thursday.
The 29-year-old striker, who has suffered long lapses of form, severe criticism and questions about his hunger for success during two-and-a-half turbulent seasons at Chelsea, was impressed by Tahiti's sportsmanship, integrity and the example they set in the match.
Tahiti were given a standing ovation at the final whistle by nearly 72,000 fans at the Maracana stadium who cheered almost every move made by the Oceania champions, ranked 138th in the world.
"They are the example for other teams," Torres told reporters after accepting the Man of the Match award for his four-goal haul.
"They tried to play football and although the result proved there is a massive difference between the teams, that was not the most important thing. The most important thing was it was sporting contest.
"All of us have become big fans of that team. We have all had our photos taken together - it was a joy to play in that match and not just because we won so easily, but because they were sporting and despite losing they played with a smile on their faces from the first kick to the last.
"A lot of other teams should follow their example," added Torres who opened the scoring in the fifth minute for the world champions and grabbed his fourth goal a minute after firing a penalty against Tahitian goalkeeper Mikael Roche's crossbar.
Spain manager Vicente del Bosque described Tahiti as "noble opponents".
"It was quite humbling to play against them," he said. "They were sporting, they played really fairly and every time they got the ball they tried to attack us.
"They were noble opponents. Of course the gap between professional and amateur football is huge but with the respect each team showed, I think football has been strengthened today and not weakened."
There were mixed feelings in the Tahiti dressing room but coach Eddy Etaeta, while disappointed with some of the goals conceded, hoped being in the tournament had raised the team's profile back home.
"Of course we were never going to win, but some of the goals we conceded were a bit naive and we could have done better," Etaeta told reporters.
"But we have won a major victory here by winning the hearts of the Brazilian public.
"I think its fair to say we are better known in Brazil than we are in Tahiti.
"I like to talk straight and we did not get much support when we left to come to a major competition like this and that was a major frustration. I hope we get some support when we get back."
Tahiti, who lost their opening game 6-1 to Nigeria, play their third and final group match against Uruguay in Recife on Sunday.
"We won't be back in Brazil for the World Cup next year because we have lost too many games in our qualifiers and are out," said Etaeta.
"But we are laying some foundations. We will improve if some of our players move to professional clubs overseas. Not the top clubs naturally, but if we had more professionals the game could improve at home, and who knows about the 2018 and 2022 World Cups."comments