The tiny Pacific nation, which consists of five volcanic islands and two coral atolls, has participated in four previous FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaigns. The first attempt to compete on the world stage began ignominiously, when a team comprising mostly of inexperienced teenagers, suffered a world record 31-0 defeat against Australia in April 2001. With a tiny population numbering around 60,000 it is little surprise that American Samoa failed to record a win in their first three campaigns. However, that all changed on 22 November 2011 as American Samoa defeated Tonga during Brazil 2014 qualifying, making global headlines in the process. American Samoa then drew with Cook Islands, and only a late goal from neighbours Samoa ended their hopes of an unlikely progression to Oceania’s Round Two.
Unlike some Oceania nations, American Samoa are regular participants in continental World Cup qualifiers at youth level, and their hope is that such investment will pay dividends for the senior team. American Samoa’s all-amateur national team thus have a young average age, with the squad members split between domestic and USA-based personnel. American-based pair Ramin Ott and Shalom Luani proved important team members after they were brought in during Brazil 2014 qualifying, although the latter has since taken up college American Football. Talented goalkeeper Nicky Salapu remains, with his international career dating back to the 2001 qualifying matches.
Experienced Larry Mana’o filled the massive shoes left by American Thomas Rongen, having been assistant to the former USA national youth coach during the nation’s breakthrough Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign. Mana’o, who was also Technical Adviser for both the men’s and women’s national teams at the 2011 Pacific Games, has coached extensively at college and amateur level in the United States.
17 – American Samoa waited 17 years from their FIFA recognised debut to record their first international win in 2011.
The former stars
Natia Natia, Nicky Salapu