FIFA Women's World Cup
Don't fret if USWNT doesn't blow out Vietnam in World Cup opener
FIFA Women's World Cup

Don't fret if USWNT doesn't blow out Vietnam in World Cup opener

Updated Jul. 21, 2023 5:37 a.m. ET

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The parallels are impossible to ignore.

In its opening match at the last Women's World Cup, the defending champion United States faced a team from the Asian Football Confederation playing on the global stage for the first time. A lopsided win for the Americans was expected.

And that's exactly how it played out, even if few could've predicted the 13-0 drubbing of Thailand that transpired that night in Reims, France — the biggest margin of victory, men's or women's, in World Cup history — beforehand.

The Americans will open their 2023 World Cup slate Friday against another debutant, Vietnam (9 p.m. ET, FOX and the FOX Sports app). U.S. fans, quite understandably, are wondering whether they'll see another comprehensive shellacking.


They're not alone.

"Are you going to crush us like against Thailand four years ago?" a Vietnamese reporter asked U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski on the eve of Friday's match.

For the record, Andonovski and his players aren't expecting a repeat of the 2019 opener even if Vietnam is participating in its maiden World Cup and was defeated 9-0 by Spain here in Auckland last week in its final tuneup before the main event. But the team also narrowly lost 2-1 to Germany, FIFA's No. 2-ranked team, last month, a result that absolutely raised eyebrows inside the U.S. camp.

"We're preparing to see the best Vietnam team that there has ever been on the field," Andonovski said. "That is the team that we saw against Germany."

Vietnam defended stoutly in that game. Against the top-ranked Americans, they will almost certainly adopt an extremely defensive posture again, with all 11 players behind the ball for long stretches.

"Any time you're in a low block, no matter who you are, that's hard to break down," U.S. forward Lynn Williams said. "There's bodies in the way."

Ariane Hingst: USWNT won't three-peat

Legendary German national player Ariane Hingst believes the USWNT will buckle under pressure like Germany did when they were the host nation in 2011.

[How the USWNT is preparing for Vietnam in its opener]

Still, the U.S. has plenty of incentive to run up the score if at all possible. 

While the ultimate goal is to win a third consecutive World Cup, finishing atop Group E is the first step toward getting there. With the 2019 runner-up the Netherlands also in their quartet, goal differential could well end up being the tiebreaker, even if Andonovski insisted he hasn't discussed that possibility with his players.

"For us, the most important thing is to win the game first and foremost," he said. "And if that means multiple goals, we will accept it."

Either way, U.S. supporters probably shouldn't expect another record-shattering triumph. And if it doesn't happen, they also shouldn't freak out, or think that a smaller margin of victory means their team isn't still the prohibitive favorite to win it all.

For starters, the women's game has matured considerably over the last four years. Teams are more sophisticated. They're better prepared, better coached, more organized and well-drilled defensively.

The first few games at this World Cup have certainly borne that out. 

New Zealand won its first World Cup game ever Thursday night, beating former World Cup and Olympic champion Norway

Fellow co-host Australia needed a penalty kick to defeat the Republic of Ireland; like Vietnam, Ireland is also competing on the biggest stage for the first time. 

And the Philippines, another newcomer, gave Switzerland all sorts of problems on the second day of the competition, losing just 2-0 in the end.

Bet on the USWNT?

FOX betting insider Chris "The Bear" Fallica discusses whether the United States is the right bet in the 2023 Women's World Cup.

"There might be teams that before we were just like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be six- or seven-zero' or whatever. That's not how it is anymore," U.S. captain Lindsey Horan said. "It's going to be the most competitive World Cup. It already is, and that's exciting. That's what everyone wants."

"In 2019, we did not know what the outcome of that [first] game was going to be," defender Crystal Dunn said. "We're going to obviously try to put our best foot out there and, it doesn't always have to result in a 13-0 win. Sometimes you could play well, and a team just defends their heart out.

"I think that is something that we have to anticipate against Vietnam."

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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