World Cup preview: USWNT v. Thailand

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  • USWNT ready to kick off eighth World Cup campaign
  • USWNT has won six straight and has just one loss in 12 months
  • Thailand competing in second World Cup

It’s been a long wait, but the U.S. Women’s National Team is finally ready to take the field at the 2019 World Cup.

Head coach Jill Ellis has spent the past three years tinkering with the lineup and testing out new tactics, and its quite likely that Tuesday’s USWNT lineup will look quite similar to how it’s been recently, but quite different from 2016, when the USWNT was shocked by Sweden, losing on penalty kicks in the 2016 Summer Olympics quarterfinals.

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Just five players who started that day are likely to start on Tuesday at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, which is located about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Julie Ertz is a lock in central midfield, along with Becky Sauerbrunn at centerback and Kelley O’Hara at right back. Alex Morgan, she of more than 50 international goals and fully healthy again, along with the tricky, dribbling wizard that is Tobin Heath.

But this USWNT has taken real strides since the defeat by Sweden. Megan Rapinoe has cemented her place as a left winger, cutting inside and allowing Crystal Dunn, the last player cut from the 2015 World Cup squad, to maraud forward down the left. Rose Lavelle has broken into the team and along with Lindsey Horan, form a delightful one-two punch in box to box midfielders that are also creative and can find Heath and Rapinoe open to stretch the opponent’s backline.

If there’s anywhere that’s a question mark for this USWNT, it’s at goalkeeper, where Alyssa Naeher has patiently waited her turn, finally getting her chance after Hope Solo was effectively banished from the national team and forced into an early retirement.

Against Thailand, it will be a great opener for the U.S. to get the early nerves and jitters out of the way before going on to record what should be a comprehensive victory. There’s no guarantees at World Cups, but against a nation ranked more than 30 places lower, it should be a comfortable win for the U.S. in the end.

Plus, with Thailand and Chile as the build-up before facing Sweden, it will give the USWNT a great chance to get into their groove before facing some of the best competition this tournament has to offer.


What they’re saying

USWNT coach Jill Ellis: “‘Excitement’ is the best word to describe where I am and where the players are. The anticipation is growing. The players are ready, excited and hungry. We feel prepared. It’s been a long process, the preparation has been excellent and we’re ready to focus on tomorrow’s match.”

Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian on facing the USWNT to open the World Cup: “To face the number one team in the world at the opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a massive opportunity for us to test and assess ourselves.”


Prediction

Thailand has done very well to qualify for the World Cup, but this isn’t just any opponent. It’s the team with the best attack in all of women’s soccer. The USWNT’s forward trio of Morgan, Rapinoe and Heath should be enough on its own to break down the Thailand backline, and there will certainly be chances to score off corners as well. It should end up as a comfortable victory. USWNT 3-0 Thailand