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banner Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
The margin of error?
Archie Thompson
Archie Thompson scores one of his 13 goals
By BBC Sport Online's Andrew Warshaw

The ultimate mismatch and a mockery of what the World Cup is supposed to be about, or an essential learning process that is the democratic right of every sovereign state?

The debate begins now following Australia's world record 31-0 thrashing of American Samoa, which looked more like a rugby score that a football result.

One-sided scoring romps are nothing new in world football, especially in Australasia.

Only a few days ago, Tonga were on the end of another mauling by Australia, this time a mere 22-0.

Such margins of victory would not happen in any other part of the globe, simply because the gap between top and bottom in Australasia is far greater than in any other Confederation.
Nicky Salapu
Goalkeeper Nicky Salapu lets in another

But is it good for the game? And can grass roots fans really take the World Cup seriously when the tournament allows such fixtures to take place ?

Tony Langkilde, American Samoa's manager, insists that the Polynesian country - population 60,000 - will learn from the biggest mauling in the history of world football.

"I think that it's great a team as small as ours get the chance to play against Australia. It helps attract players," he said.

Hard to argue with that. After all, someone has to be the lowest-ranked team on Fifa's list.

At 203rd, American Samoa were always likely to be the fall guys.

Yet there is a growing belief that routs as pronounced as 31-0 have no place in the modern game.

Australia itself is a developing soccer nation and needs proper competition to improve.

Now even Fifa is beginning to wake up to that fact, despite insisting that every nation has the right to field a team.

They do not learn anything and it should be a learning process
  Fifa spokesman Keith Cooper

"It does not do the image of the game any good, either for the winners or losers," said Fifa spokesman Keith Cooper.

"They do not learn anything and it should be a learning process. In the other five confederations, the gap between top and bottom is not so large."

Cooper isn't the only one who feels that way. Writing in the New Zealand Herald newspaper, Bill MacGowan, the chief executive of that country's soccer federation, said changes must be made.

"We accept the place the island nations have in world football," he said.

"But New Zealand and, no doubt, the Australians feel it would be far more beneficial for the island nations to play off in their own competitions."

And that is exactly what Fifa appears to be considering, introducing a preliminary tournament before the big boys from Oceania join in.

"That's what may happen," Cooper said.

"There does not seem to be much point in playing a match that ends 31-0. It doesn't serve any useful purpose."

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