Ruthlessness, depth and a statement win: Takeaways from USWNT's thrashing of Thailand
The United States National Women’s Team’s (USWNT) thrashing of Thailand, 13-0 will probably go down as the most incredible moment of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Sam Mewis, Megan Rapinoe, Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd. The above names got on the scoresheet, as the USWNT annihilated Thai hopes in what was a very professional performance from the reigning champions.
A 13-0 win is eventful, to say the least. Unsurprisingly, it was a record-breaking night in the history of the World Cup, all genders included.
There was a lot to talk about and infer from this phenomenal USWNT performance. Here are my takeaways from this historic night.
The USWNT means serious business, both on and off the field
Just a year after winning the 2015 World Cup, the USWNT was shockingly eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Olympic by fellow Group F members, Sweden.
That loss was the first in a line of dominos that were to fall.
Veteran goalkeeper Hope Solo called the Swedes “cowards” for playing a defensive game. She was duly suspended for six months by the US Soccer Federation.
In 2016, Solo, Morgan, Lloyd, Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn filed a complaint (rightly so) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC), citing gender discrimination considering the Men’s Team was paid higher than the Women’s team. Please note, that the USWNT is the most successful in women’s football history. The EOCC gave them the green light to sue US Soccer Federation (USSF) earlier this year.
The 2019 World Cup, therefore, is a trial by fire for this generation of the USWNT defined by the likes of Lloyd, Rapinoe and Morgan.
A ruthless 13-0 thrashing goes on to serve notice to all the other contenders, especially fellow group members, Sweden. It does paint an even bigger target on the USWNT’s back as the World Cup progresses, but also makes this side all the more intimidating.
As Amy Bass points out for CNN, the 13-0 is also “the best testimony” in their legal battle with the USSF.
13 goals will surely be heard both on and off the field.
Carli Lloyd and Christen Press are the finest bench players at this World Cup
Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA World Player of the Year and Christen Press, the 2010 Hermann Trophy winner and all-time scoring and assists leader for the Stanford Cardinal, came off the bench in the Thailand game. The former also scored a hat-trick in the 2015 final, helping her country lift its third World Cup.
It’s fair to say that Jill Ellis has arguably, the best players on any bench in the 2019 World Cup.
Lloyd is not content be coming off the bench, as per the New York Times.
"I'm going to be flat-out honest: I'm not OK with coming out. I don't think anybody should be OK with coming off the bench. I'm going to fight and push my teammates and try to help in any way possible,” she said last year.
Looking at the form of Morgan, Rapinoe and Tobin Heath, the trio unlikely to be benched.
Having a player of Lloyd’s calibre and experience, however, on the bench is the USWNT’s x-factor in the tournament. She has a history of being a big-moment player. In a World Cup that is considered to be the deepest in terms of competition, Lloyd as a super sub is what the USWNT needs in tight situations.
The USWNT’s ruthlessness needs to be appreciated
Social media is awash with angry reactions at the USWNT scoring 13 goals. Cries of being disrespectful, unsportsmanlike etc. are doing the rounds.
What, however, is more disrespectful? Playing an elite level of soccer throughout the 90 minutes or deliberately lowering your level so as to accommodate the opposition.
If you’re a player, the latter is easily the worst that you can encounter on the field.
"I think to be respectful to opponents is to play hard against opponents," said Jill Ellis in a post-game conference. The same attitude was shown by the women on the pitch. Playing at your highest level, regardless of the opposition, is what athletes are expected to do, day in and day out.
The Thai coach, Nuengruethai Sathongwien, thought the same.
“They saw our players were disappointed and let down, so they wanted to encourage us to keep fighting,” Sathongwien said. “So thank you very much for that.”
Broken records, broken records everywhere
For starters, this is the biggest score-line in World Cup (men or women) history.
Morgan was the star of the show, scoring five times in the win. She tied the record for most goals scored in a single Women’s World Cup game that was held by compatriot, Michelle Akers.
Akers had achieved the feat in the inaugural Women’s World Cup in a 7-0 win over Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals. The USWNT went on to win the World Cup in 1991.
Morgan also became the fourth American to score a World Cup hat-trick. Only Germany, with five, has had more players score a hat-trick at the Women’s World Cup.
Another German record that the Americans inched closer to was the overall number of World Cup goal-scorers. Mallory Pugh’s 84th minute strike made her the 32nd American to score a goal at the World Cup. Germany has had 34 goal-scorers so far.
The USWNT’s fourth and sixth goals were scored in a span of six minutes. That is the fastest four goals ever scored in a Women’s World Cup match.
Lloyd had another feather to add in her cap. She became the second oldest goal-scorer in World Cup history, at the age of 36 years and 330 days.
Cover Image courtesy: Fox Sports