Two-Time Defending Champions Dominate Opening Match at Women’s World Cup

by Warren Seah

Auckland, New Zealand

The United States, two-time defending champions of the Women’s World Cup, made a strong start to this year’s tournament with a commanding 3-0 victory over first-time participants Vietnam. Led by Sofia Smith’s impressive performance, the favored Americans showcased their prowess on the field.

Impressive Display by Sophia Smith

Smith, who was named U.S. Soccer’s Player of the Year and National Women’s Soccer League MVP in 2021, demonstrated her exceptional skills by scoring two goals in the first half. Her opening goal came in the 14th minute off a pass from captain Lindsey Horan. The duo celebrated with a choreographed handshake, displaying the team’s camaraderie.

Resilient Vietnam

Despite being compared to Thailand, who suffered a 3-0 defeat against the Americans in the 2019 World Cup opener, Vietnam put up a spirited fight and managed to keep the game closer than expected. Goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh made a notable save by blocking Alex Morgan’s penalty attempt during the first half. Morgan, who returned quickly after being knocked down, has only missed two penalties for the United States.

Pursuing an Unprecedented Three-Peat

The United States is seeking an unprecedented three consecutive World Cup victories. Having previously won the tournament four times, the American team is determined to maintain their dominance on the global stage.

Youthful Infusion and Veteran Leadership

With the addition of young talents like Smith and Trinity Rodman, the U.S. team has injected fresh energy after their disappointing bronze medal finish at the Tokyo Olympics. Additionally, 38-year-old Megan Rapinoe celebrated her 200th international appearance against Vietnam. Rapinoe, who scored in the World Cup final in France and was named the best player of that tournament, did not start the match. She revealed her plans to retire from her professional team at the end of the season, making this her final World Cup campaign.

The United States has set the bar high with their convincing opening victory and will undoubtedly be a formidable force throughout the Women’s World Cup.

Rapinoe and Lavelle Make Impactful Substitutions

In the 63rd minute of the game, Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle entered the field as substitutes. Both players had been dealing with injuries leading up to the tournament but were ready to make an impact. It was hard to miss Rapinoe with her bright blue hair catching everyone’s attention. Joining them later as a second-half substitute was Alyssa Thompson, the youngest player on the team at just 18 years old.

Horan Scores a Goal and Celebrates

Lindsey Horan managed to find the back of the net in an exciting play. After receiving a pass from Smith, who was under pressure from the goalkeeper, Horan had no trouble placing the ball into a wide-open net. The goal was celebrated by Horan, who recently got engaged and couldn’t help but show off her ring in joyous celebration.

Rodman’s Brief Scare

There was a moment of concern when Rodman, one of the team’s young talents and daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman, took a hard fall on her back after being tackled by defender Tran Thi Thu. It initially appeared that Rodman might be injured, and the medical staff prepared a stretcher on the field. However, to everyone’s relief, she quickly got back on her feet and returned to the game moments later.

Group E and Future Matches

Saturday’s match marked the first-ever meeting between the United States and Vietnam. Before the tournament, Vietnam had lost two exhibition matches and suffered a 9-0 defeat against Spain in a closed-door tune-up match. The United States, along with the Netherlands and Portugal, is part of Group E. The Netherlands and Portugal are scheduled to face each other in Dunedin on Sunday. Both teams are making their first World Cup appearance.

All Group E matches will take place in New Zealand, where the tournament is being co-hosted with Australia. In the United States’ next game, they will be up against the Netherlands in a highly anticipated rematch of the 2019 final. This match is set to take place on Thursday in Wellington. If the United States successfully secures the top spot in their group, they will advance to Sydney for the round of 16.

Support from Home

Even back in the United States, the team received a heartwarming show of support. A sign was erected on the North Lawn of the White House, displaying the message, “Go Team USA! We are all behind you.” This gesture serves as a powerful reminder of the nation’s unwavering support for their team.

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