Football: Micronesia hammered 38-0 by Fiji in Olympic qualifier

PAPUA NEW GUINEA (REUTERS/GUARDIAN) - The Federated States of Micronesia's first appearance at an Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) tournament went from bad to worse on Sunday when they were thrashed 38-0 by Fiji in Port Moresby.

Micronesia were also hammered 30-0 by Tahiti on Friday in the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea, which are doubling as the Oceania qualifying tournament for next year's Rio Olympics.

Atonio Tuivuna grabbed 10 goals for Fiji's under-23 side, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Vanuatu in their opening match and were aware they needed to get close to 30 goals to stay in touch with Tahiti in Group A.

Said Micronesia coach Stan Foster: "Most of these guys are from small villages where they don't play soccer, so they've come a long way.

"They're not used to a crowd in a big tournament like this against real quality players. The Tahiti match was a real shock to them, but they bounced back. I gave them a bit of a pep talk."

Added the Australian: "We did quite well in the second half. The marking was slack in the first half so I told them to make sure they marked man to man, and that worked out a lot better."

All things being relative, Foster had a point. Micronesia conceded only 17 goals in the second half, compared with 21 in the first. This was possibly a result of his audacious tactical decision to replace the goalkeeper Walter Pengelbew with midfielder Dominic Gadad at half-time.

"They were so big," said Gadad, a slight 20-year-old from a village on the island of Yap, of the other team's players.

But at least he was in a better mood than after the thrashing by Tahiti, whose players added insult to injury by performing a post-match haka on the pitch.

Added Gadad: "They beat us and then they made fun of us. It was embarrassing. It's difficult for us. We only just started playing football."

Despite watching five of his players score hat-tricks, however, Fiji manager Juan Carlos - an entertaining ball of rage on the touchline - was not satisfied.

He said: "We missed an incredible amount of chances. Otherwise who knows what the score would have been?

"Every time we played one-touch football, we penetrated and there was a chance, but sometimes a player likes the taste of the ball and they start to dream and waste time."

Much of the time Fiji did not need to fashion their own chances. Many were created by Micronesia's goal kicks, often taken by the centre-forward and not one of which passed the halfway line.

The top two sides in each group go through to the semi-finals of the Olympic qualifying tournament. The Fijians, who scored in the first minute of play and raced to a 21-0 lead at halftime, broke the record for most goals in one game in the tournament the Tahitians had equalled on Friday.

Tahiti also beat the Cook Islands 30-0 at the Pacific Games in 1971. The Pacific Games are a multi-sport event held every four years, with the OFC deciding this year's event would provide the gateway to the Rio Olympics.

Oceania heavyweights New Zealand are ineligible to win the gold medal at the Games but need to win the Olympic qualifying part of the tournament to advance to Rio.

The semi-finals and final for the Pacific Games will be held after the OFC final on July 12. Oceania also played host to the record victory for a team in a full international when Australia beat American Samoa 31-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Coffs Harbour in 2001.

As Fiji's trashing of Micronesia was officially an under-23 contest, Fiji's place in the history books is uncertain.

Up next for Micronesia are Vanuatu, who drew 1-1 with Fiji two days ago. For Foster it's back to the training pitch for some fine-tuning. "They need to work on their first touch," he said.

Gadad's aim was simple: "To score at least one goal."