Taiwan yesterday ran rampant over the Northern Mariana Islands, scoring four goals in each half on the way to an 8-1 thrashing in Guam, picking up their first win in an international competition in more than a year.
Players and coaches congratulated each other at the final whistle for the superlative performance, with accolades going to midfielder Lin Chieh-hsun, who scored four goals, and striker Wu Chun-ching, who grabbed a brace, in the first-round qualifier for next year’s East Asia Football Federation Championship.
Although the team and Taiwanese fans were overjoyed at the lopsided victory, there was a big gap between the two sides, with Taiwan 191st in the FIFA rankings and the Northern Mariana Islands 233rd in the World Football Elo rankings and picked from a population of about 52,000.
It was the first international win for Taiwan since they defeated Brunei 2-0 in an Asian region FIFA World Cup qualifier in March last year and their largest margin of victory since a 10-0 rout of Guam in an EAFF qualifier in 2007.
Japanese head coach Toshiaki Imai earned his first win after being appointed in May. He has reorganized the squad and instituted new training regime.
Imai started with an attacking line-up, operating a 4-5-1 formation with the in-form Wu in front of five midfielders.
Three attacking midfielders — Lin, Chen Yi-wei and Lin Chang-lun — were well organized and linked up effectively.
Taiwan scored first in the 30th minute when Wu received a pass from the right and slotted home. Six minutes later, a corner saw defender Chen Wei-chuan chase down a pass on the edge of the box and, after beating a defender, he blasted home.
In the 40th minute, Lin Chieh-hsun scored the first of his four goals with a snap-shot and just before halftime Chen Yi-wei made it 4-0 with a header.
Wu found an opening between defenders and beat goalkeeper Johan Noetzel with a low shot for his second goal in the 56th minute.
Six minutes later, Lin Chieh-hsun netted his second, dribbling past two defenders and finding the net.
The home side salvaged some pride through Kirk Schuler, who sent a header in from a free-kick to make it 7-1.
Lin made no mistake with a first-time shot in the 81st minute and added a stoppage-time goal for his fourth.