With host nation France enjoying a strong start to the tournament through a 4-0 victory over South Korea, the United States were keen to make a statement in this opening round. They certainly did that. Such was the nature of USA’s 13-0 malevolent obliteration of Thailand, the statement made shifted from one about their own prowess to a wider one about the state of the mixed professionalisation of the women’s game.
Thailand’s team is supported by the private sector, specifically one single company, Muang Thai Insurance. This allows the squad to exist now in a professional capacity but this relationship does not go back long enough to have produced a generation of athletes on the same level that the US have.
The athletic and technical tiers that separated the two sides meant that the US would have sealed victory in this game with only the most basic of organisational preparation. This was not the case, however, and Jill Ellis started the match by showcasing her side’s default 4-3-3.
Lindsey Horan, normally recognised as a more attacking player, sits at the base of the midfield utilising her creative abilities in build-up play. On the right side of central midfield, Rose Lavelle makes bursting runs forward into the right-channel as an attack focused box-to-box midfielder. On the left, Sam Mewis plays a more controlled central midfield role.
Up top, two left-footed wingers accompany complete forward and five-goal-getter Alex Morgan. On the left Megan Rapinoe tears up the touchline, dribbling defenders and providing crosses; on the right the more dynamic Tobin Heath cuts inside to create chances from more varied angles.
4,000 point performances in our system are rare.
Alex Morgan tonight? 7,721. pic.twitter.com/GVv6jaliyX
— Twelve (@twelve_football) June 11, 2019
The US did not remain in this shape, however. Their ruthlessness was demonstrated not only by the players continuing to celebrate into the double digits but also by Ellis’ decision to move to an all-out-attack 3-3-4 formation around 70 minutes, responsible for a flurry of late goals in the closing period.
Upcoming opponents Chile utilised their own 4-3-3 to slow down Sweden, who were expected to find an easy victory. The Chilean side defended primarily through a medium-block but quickly shifted into a deep 6-3-1 defensive shape or pressed high in a 4-1-4-1 in order to pressure Sweden at all times.
Sweden’s attempts to build the ball out from the back with high full-backs was made difficult by the defensive shift put in by Chile’s wingers. As a result the nordic side had a hard time arriving in attacking areas in a controlled manner.
Sweden did still manage to threaten repeatedly through deep, wide crosses and the attacks they were able to string onto the back of those, but Chile managed to disrupt things enough to ride some luck and keep the game at 0-0 until the heavy rain and lighting delayed the game by 45 minutes.
That was plenty of time for Peter Gerhardsson to drill some key tactical changes in the dressing room. When play eventually resumed, Sweden utilised deep and narrow, almost inverted, full-backs to build-play with width coming from higher up the pitch. The Blue and Yellow pushed Chile deep into their own half where the Swedes were able to enable their own game and score twice.
Chile’s tactical prowess and high-intensity likely make them a tougher opponent for the US. This, however, will probably only provide Team USA with the opportunity to show off their ability churn out batterings consecutively and in more challenging circumstances. Perhaps also with some rotation opportunities for younger players, given the near-veteran status of their front line and – for all the goals she scored against Thailand – the poor domestic season taliswoman Alex Morgan has had this year.