APIA, Samoa (AP) — American Samoa's players raised their arms and fell to the ground, as if they had won a major championship.
It was only a 2-1 victory over Tonga in the start of Oceania World Cup qualifying, but for one of football's worst national teams it was a triumph like no other.
Led by former U.S. Under-20 coach Thomas Rongen, American Samoa won its first international match after 30 consecutive defeats over 17 years. American Somoa is a U.S. protectorate in the South Pacific with a population of about 55,000.
"This is going to be part of soccer history, like the 31-0 (defeat) against Australia was part of history," Rongen said.
American Samoa, tied for 203rd and last in the FIFA world rankings, had been outscored 229-12 since starting international play in 1994, including a world record 31-0 loss to Australia in a World Cup qualifier in 2001. Twelve of the losses had been in World Cup qualifying in which they had been outscored 129-2.
Goalkeeper Nicky Salapu was the only holdover in the starting lineup from that game against Australia.
Ramin Ott scored on a 40-meter (yard) strike in the 44th minute. The ball bounced off the hands of goalkeeper Shalom Luanio and into the goal. Kaneti Falela lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper from just inside the penalty area to make it 2-0 in the 74th. Unaloto Faeo scored on a header in the 87th minute for Tonga, tied for 201st in the rankings.
"I can't explain it right now," Ott said. "I'm elated. I'm above everything right now."
Rongen, born in the Netherlands, was fired as coach of the U.S. Under-20 team in May, and he was hired by American Samoa in October.
"Maybe we have a chance to do something special here beyond this one game, but let's enjoy this one right now," he said.
The group winner advances to the eight-nation second round, which includes 2010 World Cup qualifier New Zealand.