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2023 Women's World Cup

Analysis: Fleeting moments of Vlatko-ball as Sophia Smith steals the show

U.S. women's national team forward Sophia Smith runs on to the ball as Vietnam defender Luong Thi Thu Thuong trails.
(Photo Copyright Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports)

The United States women’s national team began its 2023 Women’s World Cup campaign successfully, if a bit awkwardly, with a 3-0 victory over Vietnam. This was a game of chaotic energy, one-on-one duels, full-blooded challenges and mis-hit passes. Space was always going to be at a premium. Vietnam was always going to defend deep in its own half and get numbers around the ball. The final statistics were no surprise: 66% possession for the U.S., 28 shots to Vietnam’s zero, seven shots on target.

Still, for all the U.S.’s territorial and possession dominance and the clear physical advantages it had all over the field, this was a performance low on quality.

The first 10 minutes were frenzied, with the large pro-Vietnam contingent in the crowd cheering raucously every time its players approached the halfway line. Vietnam defended without obvious shape but with total commitment. It was undaunted by the almost impossible task in front of it. The U.S. took a while to get up to speed, initially appearing somewhat surprised by the lack of time allotted to it on the ball.

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