Tonga’s FIFA World Cup™ qualifying history, like a number of Oceania neighbours, dates back just five campaigns to their first match in 1996. In 2007 the Polynesians suffered defeats against Solomon Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu before claiming their sixth World Cup victory with a 4-0 victory against American Samoa. Five years later results were mixed as Tonga fell narrowly short of reaching Round Two during Brazil 2014 qualifying and, after losing to American Samoa, they drew with Samoa before defeating Cook Islands.
Most of the squad are domiciled locally allowing relatively easy access to national team training, however many of the veterans of Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign are now into their 30s. Tonga have been active in recent Oceania youth tournaments, but a lack of experience for the younger generation remains a concern.
Former national team midfielder Timote Moleni is at the helm having featured in several World Cup campaigns as a player. More recently he led local team Vetongo to the title and also coached the Tonga U-17 national team.
22 – Tonga were very briefly holders of the World Cup’s record defeat in 2001. A 22-0 loss to Australia was erased after just 48 hours as American Samoa suffered a 31-0 defeat.
Lafaele Moala, Lokoua Taufahema