The Australian team has the two biggest wins in football history, 31-0 and 22-0. Source: X @FOXSport
The Australian team has the two biggest wins in football history, 31-0 and 22-0. Source: X @FOXSport

Seven things that led to the greatest loss in the history of football

Football OlyBet 22.04.2024

April 11, 2001, is a date that is – at least for now – firmly etched in football history. It was then that Australia and American Samoa went face to face on the football field, and 90 minutes later the scoreboard read 31:0.

In this article, we will explain in more detail what had to happen and coincide so that this kind of unprecedented event came to be.

The first necessary piece of the puzzle for the crushing football score was placed by the Oceania Football Association (OFC), which decided to change the rules for the 2002 World Cup qualifiers.

If previously the big four of the regions – Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti – were exempt from the opening round and it was the battlefield for the weaker countries – in the case of the 1998 World Cup, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, (Western) Samoa and Cook Islands – then by 2002 the OFC decided that all teams would start on the same level.

First to be humiliated was Tonga

Thus, two five-member groups were created, where the small island countries inevitably faced a beating. Especially those who, by the will of fortune, were drawn together with Australia.

When the long-time rulers of Oceania, the football players of Australia, took the field in the first match of the qualifying series, they immediately showed that they weren’t joking. Tonga was thrashed 22-0 and thus broke the previous national team football world record, which came from 2000 when Kuwait beat Bhutan 20-0.

Two days later, the Australians faced American Samoa, for whom – and this is now the second important piece of the puzzle – it was the first World Cup qualifying series in history. Although they held the first football battle in their history already in 1983 – a friendly match with (Western) Samoa, which was lost 1:3 – they only received international recognition from FIFA in 1998.

Passports and school exams

The third very important piece of the puzzle was the fact that due to passport problems, only goalkeeper Nicky Salapu was able to travel to the match in Australia from the original 20-man roster.

The fourth very important piece of the puzzle was that American Samoa’s U20 team was busy with high school final exams at the same time, so head coach Tony Langkilde was unable to call them to help out.

As a result, on April 11, even younger soccer players, 18 years old on average, ran onto the field, three of whom were only 15 years old. It’s fair to say that this was the fifth important piece of the puzzle…

In essence, pros vs. school children

If you are looking for the sixth and seventh nuances promised in the title: although you could find many football players who played in their home country in the Australian lineup at that time, there were also players playing in the Scottish and Belgian Premier Leagues and the English and German Premier Leagues.

Versus American Samoan schoolboys, some of whom, according to head coach Langkilde, had never even experienced a 90-minute football match before.

Ultimately, the result of these seven things was the biggest package in football history, i.e. 31-0.

If you want to say something appreciative about the Eastern Samoans then at the beginning of the match they resisted the pressure well, the score was opened only in the 10th minute…

Understandably, an event as such received a lot of coverage around the world. And criticism. Frank Farina, the coach of the Australian national team at the time, also criticised the system in use, and luckily FIFA took this into account.

From now on, a tiered competition system has been used again in Oceania, where the weaker ones first decide among themselves the best one(s), who will get the right to participate in the main qualifiers.

Australia opened the door for others

Australia’s decision to move to the Asian Confederation after the 2006 World Cup also helped to even out the insane level of differences.

Then, New Zealand became the ruler of Oceania, and thus managed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup – where, as the only team, they did not lose a single game! – but still, you can’t talk about major dominance in their case.

For example, at the 2012 Oceania Championship, New Zealand lost 0:2 to New Caledonia in the semi-finals, and Tahiti was crowned the champion there, they also managed to play in the 2013 Confederations Cup due to that.

Yes, they lost all three games there – Nigeria 1:6, Spain 0:10 and Uruguay 0:8 – but they won the hearts of millions of football fans again.

Anti-hero and hero

Returning to the anti-hero of our story, the American Samoa national team, after the 0:31 incident there, things have improved a bit – the first official victory was earned in November 2011, when Tonga was defeated 2:1 in the qualifying series, and in the qualifying series of 2018, there were even two victories in a row: Tonga (2:1) and the Cook Islands (2:0) – but we cannot speak of any major success.

And probably we will never be able to talk about great success regarding their team because the immense distances of the Pacific Ocean make any kind of business, including business affairs, extremely difficult and expensive to manage. And as we have experienced here in Estonia as well, you won’t get far in the world of football by doing things on a small and local scale.

However, since one person’s misfortune is another’s fortune, with the 31-0 victory in question, Australian Archie Thompson also entered the annals of history, scoring a world-record 13 goals in the match.

Although this is his proudest achievement, he was no ordinary striker. In his best season in the Belgian Premier League, Thompson scored 14 goals in 29 games, which earned him a transfer to PSV Eindhoven. However, the breakthrough was not achieved there, and he returned to his homeland, where he helped Melbourne Victory become national champions three times.

Read also: The only football-free country is now screaming for help with the aid of football


This piece of content has been lovingly crafted by the hard-working sports people of OlyBet. Hope you like it!