What does the USWNT's 13-0 rout of Thailand say about the Women's World Cup?
Background Image: Michal Jarmaluk
I was thinking about writing an opinion on the benefits of a smaller tournament, comparing the women’s World Cup to the men’s. With just 24 nations, surely the competition would be tighter, more intense. Wouldn’t it? Then the United States played Thailand.
Carli Lloyd’s status with the USWNT has been reduced to impact sub now that she’s on the wrong side of 30 and the younger stars insist on a place in the starting XI with their skill, pace and competitive fire. She capped the scoring with a goal in the 93rd minute, making the final score an unlucky 13-0.
If the Chaba Kaew’s coach, Nuengrutai Srathongvian had advised her defenders to stick close enough to show pictures of their families to Alex Morgan throughout the match, the score would still have been 8-0. Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewes contributed a brace apiece with Lindsay Horan, Megan Rapinoe and Mallory Pugh joining Carli Lloyd in piling on.
While running up the score made it seem like United States manager Jill Ellis was taking Pep Guardiola’s online coaching webinars, the US needed to set a tone in their opening match. As defending champions, all the top sides will be gunning for them. To win the group and therefore give themselves the easiest passage to the final, they must be ruthless.
On the other hand, you have to sympathise with Thailand. There’s a second country in the group who have been to a final. Sweden lost out to Germany in 2003 and want another shot at the brass ring. They must now stick the knives into the Asians in an attempt to make up the massive goal difference on Sunday before facing the USWNT in a showdown a week from Thursday. While that takes place, Thailand will try to save face with a respectable outing against Chile.
That said, a massive rout shouldn’t diminish the comparative status of the women’s World Cup. Once upon a time, lopsided scores were common in the men’s tournaments and could be again when it expands from 32 to 48 nations. Few nations have the financial resources and deep talent pools to compete with the elite nations on either side of the gender line even if a rare one or two, such as Iceland, make up for it with commitment.
There are still hidings on the men’s side and, while they don’t extend into the double digits, they aren’t shy about popping up in important matches. Saudi Arabia were rated the better side in the FIFA World Rankings when the hosts put up five against them to open last summer’s tournament in Russia. The Saudi Crown Prince developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the need to constantly shake Vladimir Putin’s hand in congratulations. In 2014, Germany put seven past five-time champions, Brazil. In the Maracana. In the semifinal.
Admittedly, the women’s game is at a much earlier stage in its evolution after insecure rich men forced it into hibernation for more than 50 years. Yet, with a third of the finals in the books, the women can claim that nations from three continents have been crowned world champions compared to just two for the men after 21. Worse, Europe has enjoyed hegemony in the past four events. Brazil was the most recent South American side to win, in 2002.
As a so-called microcosm of life, why wouldn’t you expect the power in football to be concentrated among a fortunate few, be it on the men’s or women’s side of the game? In that respect at least, the two sexes can claim equality.