?The USWNT played three World Cup warmup matches last month, against South Africa, New Zealand and Mexico.
Now, after Tuesday night in Reims, they have played a fourth. That’s all Thailand offered as they started their second World Cup campaign; just another chance for the US to step up their preparations and fine-tune their starting XI, albeit in front of a large, noisy crowd in northern France.
That was the idea when they went in 3-0 up at half time, at least. Then they put ten goals past
Since the players were able to treat their World Cup opener as a warm-up (albeit a spectacular one which will live in the record books for some time to come) let’s do the same and judge it by those merits. Have a look not at what the scoreline meant, but what the performance says for their next four weeks in France.
Let’s start with what went right. The attack, mostly. Alex Morgan looked hungry, sharp, grew into the game as Thailand’s defenders left her gaps to nip into and – let’s not understate this point – scored a World Cup record-equalling five goals, tying
Megan Rapinoe’s constant running and subtle touch was muted somewhat, but only because you don’t need to try unlock a defence when the door’s been left open for you and the opposition are ushering you inside with a butler to take your jacket.
Special mention, though, for Crystal Dunn. The former forward has moved back on the pitch in the last 18 months or so for her national side and lined up on the left-hand side of a back four on Tuesday night, but still plays as a winger or forward for the North Carolina Courage.
She’s not yet the finished article as a defender, although she’s quick enough to make up for the occasional positional lapse when tested, but her constant movement – twisting and turning and popping up to overlap with Rapinoe on the left – made her an absolute nightmare for the Thai back four to deal with. No defender in the world is so good going forward.
Oh, and Tobin Heath toyed with her marker so much that she, as you read this, is wandering wild in the car park outside the
‘I’ll be honest, I sit here and I think ‘if this is 10-0 in a men’s World Cup, are we getting these same questions?’ – Jill Ellis not fancying the ‘should you have reined in the scoring a little bit there?’ questions
— Chris Deeley ? FORGOTTEN NATIONS OUT NOW ? (@ThatChris1209) June 11, 2019
The only save Alyssa Naeher had to make in the US goal was a clipped, floating effort from long range. She could’ve gathered it blindfolded, hanging from the crossbar by her feet, after 15 double shots of vodka (although it’s probably worth noting that she just did it the normal way).
What was abundantly obvious is that this USWNT team is, from top to bottom, made of utterly ruthless winners. The refrain from all of the American players after the match was ‘well, goal difference, every one counts’. That’s patently nonsense once you’re eight goals up in a group of four – but this team has no idea what to do when they aren’t going for the jugular.
Rapinoe responded after the match to suggestions that her team should’ve backed off once the scoreline got ‘too big’, saying: “It sucks to get that many goals scored on you, but you don’t want to take your foot off and pass the ball around in your own half for 30 minutes. We have the utmost respect for everyone we play, but it’s the World Cup. That’s part of it.”
The final word, though, went to manager Jill Scott, when asked how she could keep her players’ feet on the ground after such a resounding win. “They’re on a mission.”
As if you couldn’t tell.