The final whistle blew on the last game in Group F and all the discussion seemed to be centered on how disrespectful the United States Women’s National Team had been to Thailand. “Racking up the score” has always been a controversial opinion, but at this edition of the Women’s World Cup, it seems to be heating up even more.
A lack of intent is more disrespectful than a scoreline
Here’s the thing: if the USWNT had stopped trying to score at 3-0, which was what the score was at halftime, they would have slowed the game down and essentially toyed with Thailand for 45 plus minutes. No one wants to see that, least of all the Thai, so why should we now point fingers at the USWNT for keeping their concentration and intent for the full 90 minutes?
When a team is as dominant as the USWNT can be, once they have comfortably put themselves ahead, their aim is to keep their focus. This is a World Cup tournament where any slip could mean the end of your run, so the USWNT have every right to keep their “foot on the gas” throughout the game. It also allows the USWNT, the defending champions that everyone is looking to topple, an opportunity to tell the rest of the competition that they are still the best team in the world. The USWNT essentially said to the rest of the teams: come and get us.
Is there a disparity between the two teams that can be directly linked to the amount of funding each team gets? Absolutely. But for Thailand, this was not only a chastening experience but an example of what they should strive to be— especially if they receive more support from their federation.
When Germany beat Argentina 11-0 in 2007, no one seemed to mind then. When the same nation easily put aside the Ivory Coast 10-0, no one seemed to be particularly dismayed either. The fact that many feel the USWNT should have played down to Thailand’s level is, I would argue, more disrespectful and more of a sign of bad sportsmanship than what happened today.
Thailand will learn a lot from today and I hope they can get the support they need from their federation to one day reverse this scoreline on the USWNT. Until then, this result should be posted somewhere in their dressing room as a goal, not a rebuke.
Celebrations should never be muted
The second “disrespectful” thing the USWNT seemed to have accomplished today was to celebrate each of their goals like it was the winning goal. We should have no problem with people enjoying getting a goal as goals are part of what make soccer such a fascinating sport to watch.
Was Alex Morgan bordering on condescending when she counted off her goals after she picked up her fifth of the day? Maybe. But her job is to score goals. If she stops enjoying that then the USWNT will have a problem on their hands because who wants a striker who doesn’t take joy out of scoring goals.
Were Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe also bordering on churlish when they celebrated their goals? Again, maybe, but this was each of their first goal in this World Cup and at this stage in their careers. They will want to savour each memory at such a high level. We also cannot be frustrated with Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh or Sam Mewis for enjoying their goals either. This is their first World Cup and their excitement is palpable. No player at their first ever World Cup should have that joy removed from them.
Looking ahead for both teams
Thailand will now look towards another tough test in Sweden as their second group game. If Sweden rack up the goals against Thailand, will we see the same discourse? Or will people recognize that the Swedes will want to send a signal off their own to their American rivals?
Most Swedish fans will be highly disappointed if Sweden stop trying at 2-0 or 3-0, should they get there, and Thailand will look to become more tactically savvy in order to avoid the same result in their second match.
The USWNT will line up against Chile in a few days time and we can probably expect a dominant performance there too despite Chile’s dogged performance against Sweden today. Call it “American arrogance” or “American exceptionalism” if you want but I for one, prefer watching the USWNT in full flight and enjoying their soccer. If they are just as jubilant in future matches after such a resounding result, we should applaud their effort, not denigrate them for a “lack of respect.”