Micronesia manager takes positives from 38-0 defeat
‘We did quite well in the second half’ says Stan Foster after Pacific Games defeat to Fiji
Fiji 38 Micronesia 0
For a football manager, it must be hard to find the positives when your side has conceded 68 goals in its last two matches and scored none. But for the coach of the Federated States of Micronesia, looking on the bright side is part of the job.
“We did quite well in the second half,” said Stan Foster after overseeing a 38-0 defeat to Fiji in the Pacific Games on Sunday, two days after a 30-0 loss to Tahiti. “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 goalkeeper Walter Pengelbew with midfielder Dominic Gadad at half-time. It was one of several scarcely believable moments in a match that bolstered Micronesia’s candidacy for the title of worst international football team in history.
The underdogs quickly stole the hearts of the 500-strong crowd in Papua New Guinea when they went 5-0 down within the first five minutes. They screamed “Penalty!” whenever the Micronesian players found themselves near the opposition box, and respectfully restricted their outright laughter to only the most extreme displays of incompetence.
“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.
“They beat us and then they made fun of us. It was embarrassing,” said Gadad. “It’s difficult for us. We only just started playing football.”
He was not exaggerating. Most of Micronesia’s team had not played the game until 18 months ago; Gadad said the first time he had played in goal was three weeks ago.
“Most of these guys are from small villages where they don’t play soccer, so they’ve come a long way,” said Foster, who is Australian. “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.”
For Fiji’s players, ranked 195th out of 209 teams in the Fifa world rankings, this was a rare opportunity to feel like Lionel Messi. But despite watching five of his players score hat-tricks, their manager Juan Carlos – an entertaining ball of rage on the touchline – was not satisfied.
“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,” he said.
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 eventual goal haul eclipses Australia’s record of 31-0 against American Samoa in 2001. But as this was officially an under-23 contest, Fiji’s place in the history books is uncertain. Not that Carlos took any pleasure in the margin of victory. He was concerned solely about goal difference.
“We feel very bad about having to do that, but we had no choice because Tahiti scored 30 and we play Tahiti in our next match.”
Up next for Micronesia are Vanuatu, who drew 1-1 with Fiji two days ago. For manager Foster it’s back to the training pitch for some fine-tuning. “They need to work on their first touch,” he admitted.
Gadad’s aim was simple: “To score at least one goal.”