Is USWNT Criticism Justified?

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is upon us, and the U.S. Women have played their first game. If you didn’t hear, they won that game by a massive score of 13-0 over Thailand.

The team’s willingness to continue scoring and continue celebrating those goals garnered widespread criticism. But is that criticism justified? Let’s take a look at the story.

U.S.A. All the Way

The USWNT were always the favorites entering their first game of the tournament. The defending World Cup winners are an absolute juggernaut in the sport, and are heavy favorites to repeat as champion. By contrast, Thailand is playing in just its second World Cup, and is ranked 34th in the world.

That disparity was apparent during the first half, when the U.S. women put up three goals to give them a commanding lead at halftime. But it was the second half where the drubbing really took place. The Americans added ten more unanswered goals, celebrating each one, and finished the game with the most lopsided victory in World Cup history.

Four of the American women were scoring their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup goals in their first ever game. Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle had two apiece, while Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, and team captain Megan Rapinoe added one each. Alex Morgan, the team’s most iconic star, added the other five goals in the crushing defeat.

Criticism

The game was not without its criticism. Many believed that the Americans should have stopped the bleeding long before they’d scored their 13th goal.

Abby Wombach, the American legend, points out that for many of these women, especially for the ones making their debut, this is a once in a lifetime moment. But others, like Canada’s Kaylyn Kyle, found it disrespectful.

The real issue of tension was the team’s celebrations, which continued even as they scored in the 92nd minute. These celebrations were seen as tasteless and overdone.

Is It Justified?

For women scoring their first ever World Cup goal, celebrations are understandable. They have reached the highest pinnacle of their sport. Moreover, they are fighting for their sport every day, trying to earn it more respect.

But in the grand scheme of things, one wonders if the Americans could have played a little more of a possession game and stopped the damage a little sooner. The argument that they needed the goal for goal differential concerns is weak. USWNT will have no trouble escaping their group, where goal differential could make the difference.

Still, the upset over this is overblown. Would it have been any less humiliating for Thailand if the Americans had held the ball and run circles around them, refusing to score to protect their “dignity?” Probably not. The U.S. will face stiffer competition in the coming games, and if those teams have a problem with these celebrations, they’ll have their chance to set it right.

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