The Americans have a host of brilliant attacking players but it is their defenders who will most likely decide whether they can retain their World Cup title
The USAs campaign to defend their Womens World Cup title could not have started more comfortably as the Americans scored 13-0 goals against Thailand. Here are the big takeaways from Tuesdays resounding win.
We still dont know if the American defense is good enough to win the World Cup
Thailand were never going to test the USWNTs defense, and lingering concerns about the American backline have certainly not been absolved by Tuesdays rout.
If anything, the Americans played on Tuesday like they knew they wouldnt be tested in the back. They started the match with seven attackers pushing toward goal and just three defenders at the back. Becky Sauerbrunn was officially left out because of a quad issue, but she may have actually been rested to conserve the minutes of the oldest and arguably most important defender on the team.
The fact still remains: in the five matches USWNT have played against teams ranked in the top 10 this year, they have conceded multiple goals in all but one of those games. Thailand, ranked 34th in the world, are not reflective of the competition the US will face in the later rounds.
Everyone already knew the US have an incredibly potent attack and a shaky defense. That viewpoint hasnt changed after the Thailand game.
The scoreline shows there is work to be done around the world
While there was certainly much hand-wringing over the Americans pummeling their opponent and celebrating every step of the way, the lopsided 13-0 score reflects a larger issue. The Thailand womens team just isnt supported financially in the way the US womens team is, and thats true of plenty of teams at this World Cup. There are haves and haves-not throughout womens football, particularly because federations prefer to divert funding to their mens programs.
Megan Rapinoe said it is well-within Fifas power to remedy the situation. There are some teams here that have only played a handful of games since the last World Cup or only in the qualifiers, said Rapinoe, who was one of the US goalscorers against Thailand. Its embarrassing, not only for the federations but for Fifa. Just mandate it they mandate all kinds of things.
These types of scores, while unusual, are more common in the womens World Cup than the mens version. Germany beat Ivory Coast 10-0 in 2015, and put 11 past Argentina in 2007.
The US said they there was no malice in their victory. The players insisted it was just business as the World Cup includes a tiebreaker based on goal difference. Alex Morgan could be seen comforting American-born Thai striker Miranda Nild after the game, telling her to keep her head up.
I told her its a dream of all of ours to play in a World Cup and she has two more games to showcase herself shes a quality player and to stay encouraged, Morgan said. Shes living out a dream that most women and girls dont get to.
The rest of the competition better watch out
The USA were already considered tournament favorites alongside hosts France, but Tuesdays win was a clear statement of intent. The USA players had been asked all week about Frances impressive 4-0 win over South Korea in the tournament opener. Now, the US have turned in a performance that France may be asked about as well.
We had to wait so long to play, so we were chomping at the bit, Kelley OHara said. We wanted to come out here and make a good first impression.
The Americans now have not only a strong performance under their belt, but some of the teams key members, such as playmaker Rose Lavelle, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and center-back Abby Dahlkemper, have been eased into the World Cup with reason to feel good about what comes next.
This game is a huge confidence builder, especially for those who had never played in a World Cup before, said Julie Ertz. We had a few of those girls score tonight. That builds confidence but I hope theyre also happy with their performances on top of their goals because they did well.
Criticism of the US celebrations is not new
This is not the first time the Americans have been lambasted for running up a score against a weaker opponent and celebrating furiously along the way.
In the 2012 Olympics qualifying campaign, the Americans steamrolled their opponents, including a 14-0 win over the Dominican Republic. Then-coach Pia Sundhage celebrated each goal by leaping off the bench or cheering, and the local broadcasters in Canada criticized Sundhage live on air for lacking class.
When the 2012 Olympics in London arrived, the Americans doubled down. The players unveiled planned and choreographed celebrations, like group cartwheels in a 2-0 win over New Zealand and a hip-hop dance in a 1-0 win over North Korea. After New Zealands coach complained, Sundhage responded: We score goals and youre happy. What the players want to do, whatever they do, it has to be fun. The Americans went on to to win the gold medal.
This time around, coach Jill Ellis also defended her players, who did not have choreographed dances but did celebrate each goal enthusiastically. For four years they have been working, and some of them longer if its their first World Cup, Ellis said. As a coach, I dont find it my job to harness my players. This is what theyve dreamt of. This is it for them. This is a world championship.
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