Cris Freddi dredges up some of international football's worst mismatches. If you come from Guam, it's probably best to look away now
Gotti Fuchs must be kicking himself in his grave. Back in 1912, Germany seem to have taken their foot off the pedal immediately after he’d scored his tenth goal against Russia. There were still 20 minutes to go (around the same as when Archie Thompson hit double figures against American Samoa), but Fuchs’s tenth was their last. They probably thought enough was enough, but if they’d set him up for a couple more he would have broken the world record instead of equalling it, and they wouldn’t have fallen one short as a team. A more genteel era? Only relatively – 16-0 isn’t exactly what you’d call merciful.
Perhaps, unlike the Australians, they had simply had enough of beating up on someone from a lower division. Because the Russians were exactly that. Only one of their players, Alexei Uversky, “employed tackling”. They lost their next two matches 9-0 and 12-0 at home to Hungary, and even had the first player to be sent off in an international. Fuchs really should have filled his boots a bit.
You could say the same for Sofus Nielsen in another Olympic match four years earlier, but when you’re the first to score ten in an international, you can be forgiven a little laxity. Vilhelm Wolfhagen got the last two instead, completing Denmark’s 17-1 win over France, whose back four were all winning their first caps. If it isn’t a record score in a major semi-final, it ought to be.
That was a truly terrible French team, none of whom was capped again, but only the worst among equals. They were accustomed to regular thrashings by England’s amateurs, including 15-0 (despite a deliberately missed penalty) and 20-0 in an unofficial match in 1910. You expect these kind of scorelines at a country’s embryonic stage, and the England amateurs were able to feed on easy pickings until the First World War. They reached double figures against Sweden, Holland and Belgium, raw beginners all.
Ireland went down heavily too, 13-2 against the full England side in 1899. Back in 1882 their international baptism had ended in a 13-0 home defeat by a mediocre England, and they’d let in ten in consecutive games in 1888. Everyone has their teething troubles, everyone expects to get there in the end. Japan, for instance, who lost 15-2 to the Philippines in 1917, had to wait 50 years for revenge, then won the return 15-0.
It isn’t always down to infancy, of course. Some teams have grown up to be rubbish. The Puerto Ricans who lost 13-0, 12-0 and 14-0 in the same week in 1946; Oman going down 15-0 to Sudan in 1965 and 21-0 to Libya the following year; Spain 13 Bulgaria 0 in 1933. Merely a select few.
Even so, evidence for the slaughter-of-the-innocents theory has been arriving mob-handed recently. The World Cup has opened its doors to newcomers like the Maldives, whose recent 1-0 defeat against China was a marked improvement on their debut last time out, when they conceded 29 goals in three days. Guam lost 19-0 to Iran and 16-0 to Tajikistan; earlier in the year they had lost 19-0 to the Chinese. In February 2000 Bhutan lost 20-0 to Kuwait in the Asian Cup.
But the real minnows are in the Pacific. The Cook Islands are an emerging rugby league nation, but not many of their 10,000 population play with a round ball. They have recently lost 16-0 and 17-0 to Australia, whose win over American Samoa was a world record, but only just: the Cooks lost 30-0 to Tahiti in 1971.
The Tahitians have been sharks in the pool for some time, racking up 18-0 wins over the Solomons, Western Samoa, Tuvalu and American Samoa, who aren’t much cop even with their full side out. Their junior team, who lost 30-0 to the Australian Joeys, are worth an article of their own.
So too are one of the worst teams ever to come out of the region, who lost 17-0 to an English FA XI in 1951, one of the biggest home defeats in history. Australia are therefore the only country to score 17 goals in one match and concede 17 in another. Their goalkeeper, who wasn’t capped again, was called Norman Conquest. Enjoy it till the cricket starts.
From WSC 172 June 2001. What was happening this month