At Eden Park on Saturday, the United States beat Vietnam 3-0 to get their campaign for a third consecutive championship off to a winning start in the Women’s World Cup.
Sophia Smith scored a brace in the first half of her tournament debut, helping the United States to an easy victory.
This year, the four-time defending champions decided to place their faith in the next generation of players and were rewarded with a great performance from a 22-year-old striker who also supplied an assist for a goal scored by the co-captain, Lindsey Horan, in the second half. The performance was a showstopper.
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In their first World Cup appearance, Vietnam were hardly able to get into the final third of the field, but goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh made a diving stop to her right to deny Alex Morgan a penalty kick in the first half. This was one of numerous opportunities that the United States failed to capitalize on.
“I thought we played a good game,” said United States coach Vlatko Andonovski to the press after the game.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to make the most of the many opportunities—including the fantastic opportunities—that we created.”
Smith scored her first goal in the 14th minute off of a nice pass through from Morgan, and then she scored her second goal from close range during stoppage time at the conclusion of the first half, the shot being first called out for offside but being affirmed following a VAR review.
Horan, who took over as captain of the team this year, made up for a missed opportunity earlier in the game when she put her name on the scoreboard in the 77th minute. Smith, who had previously defeated a defender on the right wing, had cut the ball back to the center of the box.
The United States controlled possession and had eight shots on goal, but Vietnam, the underdog, put up a valiant effort but was unable to get a single shot on goal for the course of the match’s whole 90 minutes.
According to a translator, Vietnam head coach Mai Duc Chung told media that his team attempted to be more strategic and skilled.
“In terms of spirit, we are very satisfied here at this location today.”
Megan Rapinoe, who will be retiring at the end of this year, made her way onto the field in the second half to cheers and applause from the large American contingent in the audience of 41,107, but the veteran forward, who is 38 years old, failed to capitalize on a great chance to score in the 70th minute.
In the 85th minute, substitute midfielder Rose Lavelle had a shot that hit the crossbar, and in the stoppage time of the second half, she had another opportunity that sailed wide of the goal. Both of these missed opportunities left Rose Lavelle feeling upset.
On Thursday, the United States will play the Netherlands in their second Group E encounter, which will be a replay of the 2019 World Cup final. Vietnam’s next opponent will be Portugal.
“The first one is in the books, and the focus shifts immediately to game two,” remarked Andonovski after the match was over.