The opening match of the night featured Fiji v Samoa. Samoans and American Samoans are very close countries, in fact they are virtually the same people. When the American Samoans arrived at the stadium, they sat together and supported Samoa, aswell as joining in together for some traditional Samoan folk songs, the two countries obviously rich in good spirit and friendship, if nothing else.
I made a fuss about the Socceroos after Monday's game in regard to their attention during the playing of the national anthem. Tonight was a definite improvement, the Socceroos looked like men, and perhaps not coincidently, the more supporters joined in the singing of Advance Australia Fair. If there is something we can learn from our Oceania neighbours, it is unity and pride for their own country. You will never see a Samoan do a 'Ned Zelic' walk out on his country.
The Samoans did put up a fight against Fiji, and were not far behind the Fijians in terms of individual talent. What they lacked collectively was the same sort of tactical awareness and organisation as the Fijians. Samoa defeated American Samoa 8-0 two days prior, a result due to individual talent difference. Due to poor administration from FIFA, American Samoa's team was destoyed by FIFA's ruling that in order to be eligible to play for American Samoa, one must obtain paperwork only available in the USA. Farcical. The only original American Samoan international with the US passport was goalkeeper Nicky Salapu. Outside of Australians Michael Petkovic and Clint Bolton, Salapu is the best goalkeeper of the four Coffs Habour visiting national teams. His saves, some which would have made proud, Gordan Banks, Lev Yashin, Peter Schmeichel and the like, prevented the scoreline from being 40 or 50 nil.
Incredibly it actually took 10 minutes for Australia to score their first goal. Born-again Boutsianis scoring directly from a corner. Much has been said about Con Boutsianis recently. Many claiming other Australian Sports would not allow an individual with such a past in the national team. All anologies here are irrelevant. If someone wants to use cricket as a shining example, may they burn in hell. What could be worse than selling out your own sport? Or what of the games administrators in this country? What of our chairman? At least Con has pleaded guilty and returned the money. Are you listening chairman?
The floodgates opened. American Samoa threw everyone behind the ball, it was not enough. Don't be fooled, these guys have skills, but I do not believe they have ever played anything more than your traditional Sunday 5-a-side matches on the nearest available space. What they lack is team coaching. They do not know how to play as a team. They chased and chased and chased. Chased the player with the ball, they manned up the Socceroos one by one. It was a case of set drills and team plays that murdered the American Samoans. The Australians simply played the ball out to wings, crossed high, cut back or powered in low, and then there was either David Zdrillic, Aurelio Vidmar or 13-goal record scorer Archie Thompson just licking their lips in hunger of another goal. Halftime. 16-0.
Someone asked what it was like to watch a match where the score is 31-0, and whether it was enjoyable. Answer is no. For the first time in an Australian World Cup match, I was calling out support and instructions to the opposition. Their confidence was quickly destroyed, they seriously lacked a team leader. They did however manage a handful of attacks at the Australian goal. With one shot forcing Michael Petkovic to dive low to his right. This got the biggest cheer of the night. Australia has long been an underdog in international soccer, it is very hard to change support for an underdog such as American Samoa when it comes to soccer. Given that there was never any doubt of the result, we could afford to applaud the American Samoans, indeed they received a standing ovation at halftime and at fulltime. New Zealand, you won't be so fortunate.
Archie scored 13. He missed a few sitters too, should perhaps have scored more. :) Zdrillic got 9, most of which were very classy goals, with combinations of poise, skill and power.
The final score was 31-0. Scoreboard suggested 32, they had skipped goal 29, they jumped from 28-0 to 30-0. After the match, I waited with fellow Australian and ex-Carlton supporters (nicknames; Trumper and Kenny Koala) for goal scoring immortal Archie Thompson. In the rush for autographs, myself, aged 24, and complete with Socceroo gear was prompted for a signature no less than four times. I didn't have the heart to sign them, nor did I Have the time, I was after a photo of Archie Thompson. Archie had made a quick dash for his bus, but I managed to get my photo with Archie. I will post a complete set of photos on my website when I get home to Melbourne, April 16.
Next up Fiji on Saturday. Big crowd expected, suspended is key Fijian Manoa Raiyawa Masi.