The United States will start its run at the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday, as the defending champions play their first group stage game against an overmatched Thailand squad.
The Americans come into their first match as overwhelming favorites over Thailand, which is 34th in the FIFA rankings heading into the tournament.
USA ‘Focused,’ Won’t Overlook Thailand
The United States has had a long wait to get started at the Women’s World Cup, which kicked off on Friday. The team was seeded into Group F along with Thailand, Chile, and Sweden, the final group to play its first round of matches in the tournament.
“The players are ready, excited and hungry,” US coach Jill Ellis told reporters prior to the match. “The preparation has been excellent. We are focused on the match.”
It’s obvious that the gap between the elite teams in women’s soccer and everyone else is narrowing. Many of the traditional powerhouses and pre-tournament favorites have been challenged by less-heralded sides so far in the World Cup. That was put on full display Monday, when Japan was held to a 0-0 draw by Argentina, while Canada could only muster a single goal in a 1-0 win over Cameroon.
But that doesn’t mean that fans should expect anything but a big win from the USA on Tuesday. The most recent meeting between the two teams saw the United States beat Thailand 9-0 back in 2016, and the score could easily be similarly lopsided this time around.
At the FanDuel Sportsbook, the United States is a massive -6000 favorite to win the match, with Thailand fetching +6000 odds of picking up an upset win. Even a draw (+1900) would be an incredible achievement for the Thai team, which finished fourth at the Women’s Asian Cup to qualify for the Women’s World Cup.
The more interesting betting may be on the final score. According to FanDuel, the most likely tallies see the USA winning either 4-0 (+650) or 5-0 (+700), though with so many goals expected, there are plenty of potential score lines that could pay off big for bettors. Even a repeat of that 9-0 result (+4600) isn’t considered out of the question. Alex Morgan (+210) is considered the most likely candidate to score the first goal of the match, ahead of Carli Lloyd (+260), Megan Rapinoe (+260), and Tobin Heath (+290).
Hope Blasts Ellis Ahead of World Cup
With little doubt about the result on the pitch, the only real drama related to the US team so far has come from comments made by former American goalkeeper Hope Solo. On the BBC’s Football Daily podcast, Solo said that the US team wins in spite of Ellis, rather than because of anything the coach does to help the squad.
“[Ellis is] not the leader I wish her to be,” Solo said. “She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But oftentimes it doesn’t matter, because the quality of the players on the U.S. team is superb.”
Ellis brushed off Hope’s criticisms on Monday.
“I mean, comments are comments,” she told reporters. “I feel over the past five years I’ve made a lot of important decisions. I have processes to make those decisions. And at this point, everything that we focus on is about this group of players that are here now.”