A performance that left all other shellackings lacking

Bigger scoreboard required. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/BPI/Shutterstock

UNLUCKY 13

Of the 32 teams who took part in the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia, only three scored as many as 13 goals in the entire tournament. The two finalists, Croatia and France, scored 14 each, while third-placed Belgium scored 16 – and they all played seven matches. After one game in the Women’s World Cup USA! USA!! USA!!! have scored 13!

Only six teams in Russia had more shots on target in the entire tournament than USA! USA!! USA!!! had against Thailand on Tuesday. Only half of the 32 teams had as many shots – off target, on target, whatever – as the 39 the USA! USA!! USA!!! took. Five teams left Russia having won fewer corners in their three group games put together than the 10 USA! USA!! USA!!! won (Thailand’s two shots were however two more than Saudi Arabia managed in their 5-0 thumping by the hosts last year, so that’s something).

There have been thrashings before in major competitions, but this was a performance that left all other shellackings lacking. And after her team had been royally thumped 13-0 Thai coach, Nuengruethai Sathongwien, told the media that “we accept that they are better”, as if there were perhaps still a few people in doubt.

Some declared that the margin of victory proved the Women’s World Cup to be in some way substandard or unworthy as a competition, rather than one in the relatively early stages of its development and with teams attempting to overcome huge disparities in funding and facilities as well as the amount of time they are able to dedicate to training, which was also true of the men’s event a few decades back when South Korea, Zaire and El Salvador all experienced the wrong end of a nine-goal margin of victory, and it seems to have worked out OK for the blokes.

But what it did prove is that USA! USA!! USA!!! have a desire for success which is perhaps a little excessive. A desire not just to beat opponents, to demonstrate their superiority, bank the available points and move on, but to leave them broken and weeping. A five-goal winning margin tells the world that one team is much better than another; a 13-goal winning margin tells the world that one team is so desperate to prove the extent of their superiority that they will cast aside such generally positive human traits as empathy and humility.

“To be respectful to opponents is to play hard against them,” said USA! USA!! USA!!! coach Jill Ellis. “A lot of this is about building momentum and so as a coach I don’t find it my job to rein my players in. When you get a deluge of goals like that, it’s a good feeling. It builds confidence.” The 2015 champions have proved themselves to be a great team, and also a hard one. Their performance will surely cast fear into their future opponents. And also, perhaps, some of their family members.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Altrincham FC wish to announce that, unfortunately, it has been necessary to cancel the proposed Q&A event featuring Fifa referee Anthony Taylor … as with any function organised to raise valuable funds for the club, it has to be financially viable. In this particular instance, due to ticket sales falling short of expectations, it would not have proved the case” – turns out hot whistle-blowing chat is not high on the Friday night fun agenda in Greater Manchester.

So many stories to tell. Photograph: James Baylis – AMA/WBA FC via Getty Images

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