Oceania Football Confederation > News > FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Stage 1 > American Samoa and Samoa set for showdown

American Samoa and Samoa set for showdown

American Samoa now need to win Saturday’s crucial match while a point will be enough for Samoa to take the title and progress to the second stage.
With home advantage and arguably the strongest set of players, Samoa went into the tournament as warm favourites and will have expected to still be in the running by this stage. But the fact that American Samoa’s hopes are still very much alive is far more of an eyebrow-raiser.
Perennial underdogs, the Thomas Rongen-led team had never posted a win in FIFA qualifying when they arrived in Apia but put that right with a shock 2-1 success over Tonga on the opening day. The fairytale continued today against Cook Islands with another historic result – the country’s first ever draw – and it could have been even better if fortune had been more kind to defender Tala Luvu.
American Samoa were on track for a ground-breaking second win in a row after being given a 24th-minute lead by Shalom Luani, who pounced on a loose ball and showed good strength to hold off a pair of challenges before prodding home past goalkeeper Tony Jamieson. Rongen’s men held the lead until the 62nd minute when the unfortunate Luvu headed a Paavo Mustonen free kick into his own net.
“Our game plan was to win but the draw has gotten us to four points and puts us into a position on Saturday to play for a championship,” Rongen said.
“I think we should have put the game away in the first half and scored two or three with the chances we had. We made it very hard for ourselves again but we got the result we needed to make the game against Samoa, who I consider the best team here, a meaningful contest. It’s going to be great – Samoa and American Samoa is like a dream match-up.”
Cook Islands caretaker coach Paul Farrell-Turepu stepped into the role at short notice and felt his side’s failure to win was down to the lack of a finishing touch.
“We had all the possession when we came back strongly in the second half but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the ball in the net,” he said. “Full credit to American Samoa, we’ve played them a few times before and this is a very good team. They were very hungry and competed well.”
The Cook Islanders were joined in picking up their first point of the tournament by Tonga, who likewise have no chance of progressing to the second stage but restored some pride with a highly-committed performance against traditional rivals Samoa.
A solid defensive display from Tonga frustrated the hosts for the majority of the first half but they finally broke through just before the break after Tongan captain Folio Moeaki brought down Desmond Fa’aiuaso in the penalty area. Midfield playmaker Shaun Easthope gave goalkeeper Kaneti Felela no chance with his spot kick, to the delight of the hundreds of locals who had descended on the J.S. Blatter Field.
Those fans had less to cheer about in the second spell though as Tonga showed plenty of determination to keep themselves in the game and carve out numerous opportunities of their own. They finally had the reward their endeavour deserved in the 82nd minute when Lokoua Taufahema headed a loose ball home, just seconds after coming off the bench.
Tonga coach Chris Williams was delighted at the way his charges bounced back from that opening day defeat to American Samoa, a result they will have wanted to get out of their system as soon as possible.
“I’m really proud of the boys after what happened two days ago,” he said. “We were playing probably the best team in the tournament today and responded very well.”
Samoa counterpart Tunoa Lui felt his team could not have done much more and had plenty of praise for Tonga.
“They put up a good fight to get back into the game and managed to score the equaliser,” he said. “I thought our boys worked really hard and we did everything we could.”
American Samoa vs. Cook Islands: Download Match Summary Here
Samoa vs. Tonga: Download Match Summary Here
For the Competition Summary click here
For the full schedule and results table click here

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