It’s generally expected to be a leisurely jaunt through the French countryside by an extraordinary gifted women’s national soccer program. And from the looks and sound of it, the United States, ranked first in the world, took its initial stroll on Tuesday in its opening-round Group F match at the World Cup.
We suppose Thailand’s national team was well-intended, stocked with the nation’s finest, albeit semi-professional, players. But you’d have to admit the luck of their draw did not work to its favor as the United States rolled to a 13-0 win in Reims, France.
As the score implies, this was nothing more than a fancy scrimmage and that credits Thailand for having more talent than it did. The USA, which was a five-goal favorite, outshot their opponents 39-2 (20 on goal) and controlled the ball so extensively it offered about 75 percent of all the match’s passes.
Hopefully, the Americans were able to at least raise a sweat in collecting three points in this opening step of their title defense. Alex Morgan certainly did. Using both feet and her head, the superstar scored a record-tying five goals.
According to the various game reports, USA’s manager, Jill Ellis, was actually second-guessed about the level of thump her team exhibited, as if anyone was expecting it to go halfway because of the disproportionate talent level.
“This is a world championship, so every team here has been fantastic to get to this point. And I think that to be respectful to opponents is to play hard against opponents. It’s a tournament where goal differential is important,” Ellis said.
“When you get a deluge of goals like that, it’s a good feeling. It builds confidence.”
The rout began quickly. Morgan scored a goal that was dismissed because of an offside before 10 minutes were played. But she quickly made up for it by converting a cross from Kelley O’Hara to make it 1-0.
“We really just came into this game and really wanted to showcase ourselves and what we’ve been preparing for and what we’ve been working on,” Morgan said. “I think we did that. Every goal matters in this tournament, and that’s what we were working on this game.”
The power of the American’s attack was best displayed in the first 10 minutes of the second half when they scored four times to make it 7-0.
“Obviously, we have the utmost respect for everyone we play, but it’s the World Cup,” said team captain Megan Rapinoe.
Morgan scored her fifth goal to make it 12-0 to join Michelle Akers as the only women to score five in a match at the World Cup. The Americans also set a record for both margin of victory and goals scored, surpassing Germany’s 11-0 win over Argentina in 2007.
Thailand is the world’s 34th ranked team and has only been in the World Cup business since 2015 when it picked up its first tournament win over Ivory Coast. The Americans had previously buried it 9-0 in a friendly in 2016. There was no chance of it being competitive and the empathy the Americans felt was clear after the game when a couple of their players gathered around the besieged Thailand goalie.
“They were disappointed, of course. They intended to make an impression in this first match, and they were disappointed,” coach Nuengruethai Srathongvian said. “Yes, they are all athletes, and they will be resilient. We’ve got two more games to play and we need to bounce back.”
Things should be a little tougher for the Americans next against Chile before playing Sweden before the knockout rounds begin. Sweden defeated Chile 2-0 in Rennes. It’s the team that defeated the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
For that reason, it was important to Ellis that the Americans begin to build the momentum and cohesion it will need to survive tougher opponents.
“Those feelings are what can help you get through the tournament,” Ellis said. “As a coach, I don’t find it my job to harness my players and rein them in, because this is what they’ve dreamed about, and this is a world championship.”
While it may not come into play, goal differential is extremely important in World Cup play. It’s the first tiebreaker for group standings. So 13-0 looks pretty good right now.
“For us, the goals matter,” said Carli Lloyd. “In this tournament, it’s important. So we just have to keep that throttle down.”
This most certainly will be a American squad to contend with. It’s the oldest, most veteran team in the tournament and one that knows how to win championships. But there are pockets of inexperience and shaking out those cobwebs was a critical line item against Thailand. And the best thing about it was no one was injured in the process.
“A lot of this is about building momentum,” Ellis said. “The reality is, we also believe we’ve got more to do, no doubt. We’re going to stay humble, and we’ll go back to work.”
In terms of the lopsided nature of the match, we’ll offer Abby Wambach, a veteran of four World Cups and the leading goal scorer in U.S. history, the final word.
“For all that have issue with many goals: for some players this is there first World Cup goal, and they should be excited,” Wambach tweeted. “Imagine it being you out there. This is your dream of playing and then scoring in a World Cup. Celebrate. Would you tell a men’s team to not score or celebrate?”