FIFA World Cup

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  • Several FIFA World Cup ™ records were broken exactly 20 years ago
  • American Samoa has had a hard time
  • looks back at the circumstances surrounding an extraordinary match

Twenty years ago to the day, a new record entered the history books with Australia’s crushing victory over American Samoa (31-0). We will probably never see such a gap again.

Today we invite you to discover the circumstances in which this unusual story was written. Coffs Harbor, six hours north of Sydney, is a popular destination for vacationers. But for football fans, this name will forever be associated with an extraordinary match.

Newcomer to the national team, striker Archie Thompson scored 13 goals in the space of 90 minutes … another record that is probably not about to be broken. The hero of the day secures a place in the history books in the first half, scoring his eighth goal before the break. The Australians return to the locker room with a comfortable lead (16-0). Despite this feat, we can not help but sympathize when thinking of the ordeal experienced by goalkeeper Nicky Salapu. David Zdrilic, meanwhile, hit the mark eight times in this match. Any other day, he would have signed the best individual performance since 1872, the date of the first international games.

The scoreboard even has a time indicated 32-0, following an error which will be rectified later.

Australia 31-0 American Samoa

(With Boutsianis 10 ‘, 50’, 84 ‘, Archie Thompson 12’, 23 ‘, 27’, 29 ‘, 32’, 37 ‘, 42’, 45 ‘, 56’, 60 ‘, 65’, 85 ‘, 88 ‘, David Zdrilic 13’, 21 ‘, 25’, 33 ‘, 58’, 66 ‘, 78’, 89 ‘, Aurelio Vidmar 14’, 80 ‘, Tony Popovic 17’, 19 ‘, Simon Colosimo 51’, 81 ‘, Fausto De Amicis 55’)

11 avril 2001

Coffs Harbour International Stadium

Archie Thompson of Australia after setting a world record in 2001
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Two different worlds

Following a change in the eligibility rules, American Samoa found themselves deprived of half of their internationals shortly before the meeting. Professional and school commitments further decimate the group. Consequence: a handful of players barely 15 years old appear on the scoresheet. By their own admission, they have never played a 90-minute game before.

Conversely, the golden generation of Australian football is reaching its peak. A lot of Socceroos play in big European clubs; the others are the heyday of the National Soccer League, the Australian championship.

The coach even has the luxury of doing without the services of Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell. On the bench, we find other big names like John Aloisi, scorer in the 2006 World Cup, and Damian Mori, the top Australian scorer at the time.

We have rarely observed such a gap between two opponents, during an international meeting.

But Australians are not completely at ease. Four years earlier, the Socceroos found themselves at the gates of a first qualification for the great world meeting since 1974. Unbeaten throughout the campaign, they failed by nothing against IR Iran, after having led 2-0.

For their part, American Samoa played their first qualifying match for the World Cup four days earlier against Fiji, a game lost with a final score (13-0). The archipelago is a small American territory of 50,000 inhabitants located at the eastern end of Oceania.

Even off the pitch, the two teams have virtually nothing in common in terms of resources and ambitions. The hotel where Australians stay has a 9-hole golf course and several football fields. Their island opponents share a room for three in an older motel located near the busy highway that connects Sydney and Brisbane.

The records before the record

In 2000, IR Iran set a new World Cup record by thrashing Guam 19-0. Two days before facing American Samoa, Australia corrects Tonga 22-0 and thus erases the performance of its rival from the shelves.

The record for most goals scored in a World Cup qualifier was set by Australia’s Gary Cole in 1981 (seven goals against Fiji) and then tied by Iranian Karim Bagheri against Maldives in 1997.


“Our opponents were beginners. We were a little embarrassed to put them through such humiliation but, on the other hand, we owed them to give our best. It’s a matter of respect.” Archie Thompson

“I really struggled to get over it. But I figured if I didn’t get back on the pitch, I would never win with American Samoa. I suffered a lot before I finally got this victory. It was something that meant a lot to me. ” – Nicky Salapu, after the first victory of American Samoa

Nicky Salapu #1 of American Samoa is comforted by team mate Young Im Min #20 after they were beaten 31 to nil by Australia
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And after ?

Ten years later, American Samoa and their goalkeeper Nicky Salapu claim a famous victory, which was the subject of an excellent documentary. At the time of starting its course in the preliminary of Brazil 2014, the record of the national team was of 30 defeats in 30 matches, 12 goals scored against 229 conceded. Four years later, the islanders doubled their total and only an unfavorable goal difference deprived them of participation in the next round.

After beating France, the reigning world champion, at the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup, Australia lost 3-1 to Uruguay and again failed at the gates of the World Cup. The Socceroos take their revenge on the Celeste four years later. Since their participation in Germany 2006, they have never missed an edition of the supreme event.

Next Goal Wins American Samoa film poster
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