FIFA Women's World Cup
Women's World Cup 2023 highlights: USWNT tops Vietnam, 3-0
FIFA Women's World Cup

Women's World Cup 2023 highlights: USWNT tops Vietnam, 3-0

Updated Jul. 21, 2023 11:46 p.m. ET

The United States opened its 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup campaign Friday (on FOX and the FOX Sports app) against first-timer Vietnam with a commanding 3-0 victory in the highly anticipated Group E match at Eden Park in New Zealand. 

The USWNT, which is eyeing an unprecedented three-peat this year, is now 21-3-1 all-time in the group stage at the World Cup with Friday's win. Though it wasn't as glamorous as expected, the USWNT got it done. Budding star Sophia Smith netted two goals and an assist to pace the U.S. attack, and midfielder Lindsey Horan capped the evening with a second-half strike that put the game out of reach in the 77th minute.

But a gritty Vietnamese team made the Americans work for it. The youngest U.S. starting lineup for a World Cup match since 1995 struggled to find a rhythm against the physicality and low-block defending of Vietnam, whose goalkeeper, Trần Thị Kim Thanh, was one of the best players on the pitch. 

The final tally of 28 shots for the Americans to zero for the Vietnamese offered a better indication of how this game unfolded: with a barrage of attempts and possession from the favorites and nary a threat from Vietnam. Manager Vlatko Andonovski's side controlled 65.9% of possession in a game that was far more secure than the final score indicated.


Check out our live coverage below, including live analysis from FOX Sports' Michael Cohen!

United States 3, Vietnam 0

85': Securing the win

The U.S. secured three points, which was the primary task, but the quality was uneven over 90 minutes. A missed penalty kick from Alex Morgan and a crossbar strike from Rose Lavelle could have made it more of a blowout.

84': Two more subs for U.S.

Kelley O'Hara and Sofia Huerta came on for Crystal Dunn and Emily Fox late in the second half.

Andonovski swaped both fullbacks in the final stages with the lead at 3-0. Dunn and Fox were both solid, though they never faced much trouble from Vietnam. Both players grew into the attack in the second half.

77': Goal! U.S. grabs 3-0 lead

Horan pushed forward into some vacated space near the top of the box, almost like an auxiliary forward, and Smith found her alone at the top of the box with a cutback pass for a cool finish and a 3-0 lead.

Smith and Horan were the two strongest players for the USWNT on Friday. Smith provided the scoring punch and set up Horan's goal, and Horan really asserted herself in the second half by scoring a goal and taking up more advanced positions. She also completed more dribbles (seven) than any of her U.S. teammates.

USWNT's Lindsey Horan scores goal vs. Vietnam in 77'

72': Making a statement 

Horan really started to impact the game in the second half, when she found a pocket of space on the left side of midfield for a driving run into the final third. Then, she threaded a pass to Lavelle that set up a cross into the box.

67': Making moves

Bit of a tactical tweak as a result of the second-half substitutions. Smith was playing through the middle with Morgan on the bench. Megan Rapinoe was on the left wing, which slotted Lavelle into central midfield. 

63': Star power

USWNT stars Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle came on for Alex Morgan and Savannah DeMelo in the second half.

With her entrance, Rapinoe made her record 200th appearance for the United States.

A great showing from Morgan, who notched the assist on Smith's opening goal and served as the focal point of the U.S. front three. DeMelo left having completed better than 90% of her passes in a World Cup debut. Impressive.

56': No quit

Only four official saves Vietnam's goalkeeper, but she had also swatted or intercepted a half-dozen crosses to take command of her penalty area. She was the best player on the field for Vietnam. Fearless goalkeeping.

49': Double trouble

Both Horan and Julie Ertz attempted to build on the United States' lead early in the second half, but neither could capitalize on the opportunity.

45'+7': Goal! U.S. goes up 2-0

Smith snagged her second goal just ahead of halftime.

Another VAR decision goes in the United States' favor. Final decision: No offside on the knocked-down header. Smith has her second goal of the match on a left-footed shot that trickled through bodies and, ultimately, the legs of Vietnam's goalkeeper. A major boost for the USWNT before halftime. It was far from the goal barrage that many folks expected, but the U.S. held a 17-0 edge in shots and kept 66% possession. 

USWNT's Sophia Smith scores goal vs. Vietnam in extra time

44': Denied!

Morgan's left-footed effort was saved by Vietnam's goalkeeper. Poor penalty from Morgan, whose shot was too close to the center line. Kim Thanh deflected the ball away with a leg. Morgan's attempt on the rebound went awry, and she took a knock for her troubles. Medical staff had a quick look at Morgan.

Vietnam's goalie was a bright spot for Vietnam in the first half. She was under pressure for most of the match and continued to make wise decisions. She had been unafraid to challenge for crosses in the air against opponents with significant height advantages. Vietnam needed her to play well early, and she did. 

USWNT's Alex Morgan's penalty kick DENIED by Vietnam

39': Penalty U.S.

A penalty kick was awarded to the U.S. after a foul was called on Vietnam's Hoàng Thị Loan.

The first VAR review of the game came late in the first half to assess a potential penalty for the United States after Trinity Rodman went to ground in the box. The referee overruled her original call and awarded a penalty kick to the U.S.

34': Finding a rhythm

Horan almost connected late in the first half, but things remained 1-0 as halftime approached.

A good look at where this game had been played so far: almost exclusively on the Vietnam side of the field. Even the USWNT defenders were hovering around midfield without much threat of a legitimate counter.

28': What could have been

The USWNT was this close to building on its lead, but Morgan wasn't able to connect.

Morgan spent most of the opening half playing as a bit of a target forward, looking to lay the ball off to her teammates. This time, however, she made a darting run in behind and whistled the left-footed shot just wide of the post.

19': Eyes on the prize

With momentum on its side, the USWNT went straight to work, trying to extend its first-half lead.

Vietnam did what it could to play on the counter-attack, but there was a significant size discrepancy between the Vietnamese attackers and the U.S. back line. Most 50-50 balls were won with ease by the center back pairing of Naomi Girma and Ertz.

14': Goal! U.S. takes 1-0 lead 

The first goal of the night belonged to Smith. Just like that, the reigning champs had an early breakthrough.

Beautiful interplay from the United States. A ball with pace into the feet of Morgan, who flicked a pass into the path of Smith as a secondary runner into the box. Calm finish from Smith to put the U.S. ahead, 1-0. 

USWNT's Sophia Smith scores goal vs. Vietnam in 14'

9': All-out effort

The Americans weren't letting up, however, no matter how much pressure Vietnam applied.

Vietnam attempted to clog the midfield when USWNT was building from the back. By man-marking most of the United States' midfielders, it encouraged the U.S. to play longer, lower-percentage passes toward the forward line. 

1': Close call

Rodman — a make-or-break player for the U.S. in this tournament — went down early after contact with Vietnam defender Tran Thi Thu. Luckily, she was able to walk off the pitch herself.

Rodman flicked the ball through the legs of Thi Thu, who collided with Rodman just outside the penalty area. She landed awkwardly on her back, bringing out the medical staff. 

Vietnam's players were being very physical early — repeatedly sticking their legs into challenges and bringing U.S. attackers down. Forcing the referee to blow the whistle can be an effective way of slowing the tempo, which would benefit Vietnam.


Setting the stage

The "World Cup NOW" crew previewed the match live on Twitter ahead of kickoff.

Starting XI spotlight

Ertz — who will start at center back in place of injured USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn — and DeMelo were in the starting lineup Friday, while 2019 standout Lavelle began on the bench.

Of the 23 players on the United States' roster, 14 were making their World Cup debut (the most since the tournament began in 1991), including young forwards Smith — the 22-year-old phenom who leads the NWSL with 10 goals in 13 matches — Rodman and Alyssa Thompson. The USWNT also returned veteran stars such as Morgan and Rapinoe, who announced earlier this month that she will retire after the tournament.

The average age of the USWNT starting lineup Friday is 27.8 years old, the youngest in a World Cup match since 2007.

There is always a measure of scrutiny whenever a manager releases a lineup for the opening match of a tournament. How closely does the real starting XI mirror what that nation showed during pre-tournament friendlies? Have any players been dropped from the lineup due to previously undisclosed injuries? What kind of opponent-specific tweaks were installed in the final few training sessions?

Andonovski's lineup for Friday's opening match against Vietnam included five players who were part of the 2019 squad and six players who made their World Cup debuts. Morgan (208 caps) headlined a quartet of veterans with 100-plus appearances for the USWNT, and 10 of the 11 players had at least 15 caps to their names. The lone exception? DeMelo, who made her first career start and just her second career appearance for the national team.

DeMelo is the first player in USWNT history to appear in a World Cup match in one of her first two caps, per OptaJack, and with an average of 74.2 caps per player, Friday's starting XI was the least-experienced USWNT lineup in a World Cup match since 1995.

On the other side, Vietnam was captained by Huỳnh Như, who had scored 67 goals in 103 appearances for the national team, also known as the Golden Star Women Warriors, headed into Friday's game. Other key players to watch for Vietnam were powerhouse midfielders Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung and Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nh.

The U.S. is ready to roll

The United States women were all business ahead of Friday's match.

Check out the full Women's World Cup schedule and how to watch each match live here. Find the latest scores here.

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
FIFA Women's World Cup
United States

Get more from FIFA Women's World Cup Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more