Here's why Vanuatu had to win 46-0 yesterday

The minnows — who are ranked 200th in the world — were up 24-0 at half-time.

File pic.
File pic.
Image: John Walton

VANUATU’S MEN’S NATIONAL soccer team defeated Micronesia 46-0 in a Pacific Games match Tuesday. Vanuatu — who are ranked 200th in the world — were up 24-0 at half-time, and scored 22 more goals after the break.

The match would be considered one of the most lopsided results in international soccer history if Micronesia were affiliated with FIFA.

While this may seem like one team disrespectfully running up the score against a much lesser opponent, Vanuatu actually had a good excuse for scoring 46 goals. Because of how the tiebreaker rules worked, in order to have any shot to advance to the semifinals, Vanuatu needed to score as many goals as possible.

Vanuatu and Micronesia were both in Pool A of the Pacific Games, along with Fiji and Tahiti. Prior to their match, Vanuatu lost 2-1 to Tahiti and a drew 2-2 with Fiji — giving them only one point heading into their final group stage game.

Since both Tahiti and Fiji had each already clobbered Micronesia 30-0 and 36-0, to give them six and four points respectively after two games, Vanuatu’s only hope was to finish in a second place tie with Fiji, and advance by way of a tiebreaker (goal differential). In order for Vanuatu to do so, they needed to beat Micronesia by enough goals to surpass Fiji’s +38 goal differential, and hope Fiji lost to Tahiti.

Because the Vanuatu-Micronesia game happened before the Tahiti-Fiji game, Vanuatu had no way of knowing how the other game would play out, so they were forced to score as many goals as possible and hope for the best.

After the game, Micronesia coach Stan Foster said it was “boys against men,” telling the Guardian his squad was over-matched, to say the least.

“It’s just so hard at this early stage — this is kindergarten for us,” Foster said. “We have to learn and to know that we go back we have to train harder and learn more skills.”

He said that before the tournament, most of his players never had any real exposure to the larger world, let alone playing in a competitive international soccer match:

“Most of these have never been out of their villages let alone on to another island. I took them to Guam the other day [and it was] the first time they’ve been on an elevator or an escalator. It’s been a huge step-up for these guys and they’ve just been overawed really.”

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According to the Guardian, many players on Micronesia never played an 11-on-11 game before.

If it’s any consolation to Foster, it doesn’t appear that his opponents take pleasure in these outlandish games either. After their 38-0 thrashing of Micronesia Sunday, Fiji coach Carlos Buzzetti explained to the team’s website how the frustrating tie-breaking rules forced him to run-up the score:

“I’m happy for the boys because we’ve done something good for the country, but at the same time I feel very bad about that. We had a benchmark set by Tahiti and as we’re playing them next we didn’t have any other options. After the game I apologised and they understand. You still feel bad though. They are young kids, they’re coming for the first time and if it wasn’t for the 30 goals Tahiti scored we would never have done that.”

Ironically, even though Vanuatu outdid Fiji in their own demolishing of Micronesia, their 46 goals were all for naught — Tahiti and Fiji finished with a scoreless draw. With seven and five points each, Tahiti and Fiji finished first and second atop of Pool A respectively. Vanuatu finished in third with four points, and didn’t make it into the semi-finals of the Pacific Games.

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