US defends itself after beating Thailand at Women’s World Cup
FRANCE — The USWNT defended itself against criticism that it humiliated Thailand in its record 13-0 Women’s World Cup victory in France on Tuesday.
Thailand’s players were in tears at the full-time whistle after suffering the heaviest defeat in World Cup history at the hands of the US.
There were those on social media who criticized the defending champions for celebrating each goal, but Alex Morgan — who became only the second American to score five in a World Cup match — told reporters that “every goal counts.”
Morgan, who comforted Thailand player Miranda Nild after the match, said it was important for the team to “continue to go” and score as many as they could in case goal difference would ever prove to be a factor in the group stages.
“We knew that every goal could matter in this group stage game and when it comes to celebrations this was a really good team performance and I think it was important for us to celebrate together,” said the striker.
‘I respect Thailand’
The 29-year-old, who played a limited role in the US’ World Cup triumph four years ago because of injury, said she felt she was at the “peak of her powers.”
“In the preparation days before this, the team in general was just feeling great,” she added.
Jill Ellis, who could become the first coach to win the Women’s World Cup twice, said her team had showed Thailand respect.
“I think to be respectful to opponents is to play hard against opponents,” she told reporters.
“As a coach, I don’t find it my job to harness my players and rein them in because this is what they’ve dreamed about. This is it for them, this is a world championship.
“I respect Thailand. I celebrate that they’re here. For us, the players are excited and I said afterward when you go into a World Cup you can talk tactics, but it’s about mentality, it is also about confidence, and so getting off on the right foot is important.
“But the reality is we also believe we have more to do no doubt. We’re going to stay humble and we go back to work.
“Games are games, and you’ve got to go out and play and compete, and a lot of this is about building momentum.”
‘We have to improve’
With the US 3-0 up by halftime, the match was effectively over. With the title holders then proceeding to score four goals in the space of six minutes early after the break, it was a rout by the 56th minute.
But Ellis proceeded to make attacking substitutions, bringing on forwards Mallory Pugh, Carli Lloyd and Christen Press, decisions she defended after the match.
“If this is 10-0 in a men’s World Cup are we getting the same questions?” she added.
“A World Cup is about competing. It is about peaking. It is about priming your players ready for the next game.
“You can tell by my substitutions, you play players who can get hot. And if you can play as many hot as you possibly can, feeling good, feeling the back of the net, that’s so important for a forward and for a midfielder.
“Those feelings are what can help you through the tournament. We have to come out and we have to play as hard as we possibly can in every game. This will be an incredibly hard World Cup. This is only game one.”
Thailand’s manager Nuengrutai Srathongvian did not believe the team’s opponents were morally wrong to continue to press for goals until the end.
Indeed, Srathongvian vowed that the team would improve from such an experience.
“In football, everybody is following the rules, so our opponent is trying their best. The US team was very good. We don’t have any excuse and we accept that they are better,” the coach told reporters.
“We know where we are. Playing the US is not easy, and we know we have to improve in every aspect and improve in our mentality, and the players’ experience cannot be compared to them.
“We have limited resources in terms of the players. We have a limited number of players available, and we are small in build. We have to improve on this aspect.”
‘It’s a great opportunity for women’
The thread which entwined female footballers around the world was that the battle for recognition and equality is ongoing.
Yet, not only is there inequality between men’s and women’s teams, there is also a gulf between the countries competing at France 2019, as this match proved.
The Thai team is supported by a wealthy patron, the general manager Nualphan Lamsam, who is the chief executive of one of the country’s largest insurance companies.
Her family’s company sponsors Thailand’s fledgling women’s league, and players on the national team are also employed by her company.
Morgan acknowledged not every football federation supported its women’s teams as they should.
“For these 24 teams it’s a great opportunity for women to showcase what they’ve worked their entire life towards,” she said.
“Not every federation gives the same financial effort to their women’s side, and that’s unfortunate, but I hope that this World Cup, with it being the largest audience of a World Cup thus far, it’s great to see quality games and obviously quality teams.
“My hope is that eventually we have 32 teams moving forward. But also that it encourages FIFA to put a bit of pressure on those respective federations to put more efforts into their women’s sides.”