Like A World Cup Win
American Samoa and the Solomon Islands began their match on an adjacent pitch five minutes after the start of the Tahiti and New Caledonia encounter because there was just one public address system to deal with the pre-match formalities of playing the FIFA anthem to accompany the starting XIs onto the pitch, announcing the line-ups and playing the national anthems.
There were no more than 60 spectators sitting on the grass around the edges of the field for the second match, and the race was well and truly on to see which game would witness the first goal.
The Solomon Islanders did not take long to get into their stride against an American Samoa side made up of teenagers and several rather overweight players, but they did not get a goal until the 12 minute when Benjamin Totori found the net.
American Samoa were always going to be on the back foot. The country does not boast a senior league and it set an unwanted FIFA World Cup™ record six years ago when they lost 31 -0 to Australia in the 2002 qualifiers.
This time, American Samoa, whose 17-year-old goalkeeper Jordan Penitusi was playing his first ever game of senior football, “only” lost 12-1 and they vigorously celebrated their second ever goal in FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers, even though it came from the penalty spot.
Romin Ott’s goal was “like winning the World Cup,” said coach David Brand before joking that “if we had kept the goals conceded down to less than double figures, that would have been a real World Cup win for us!”
By the time the first four matches had been played on the opening day of the Games, 34 goals had been scored including 16 for Fiji in a whitewash of Tuvalu. Thereafter, the goals just kept coming over the next two weeks as the ten starters were whittled down to a final three who progressed to the next phase of the Oceania qualifiers, a group competition with New Zealand that started in October.