(Photo credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports)
The disparity in experience couldn’t be greater when the U.S. women’s national team opens Women’s World Cup play with a Group E matchup against Vietnam on Friday (Saturday local) in Auckland, New Zealand.
For the Americans, the expectations are they will become the first team, men’s or women’s, to win three straight World Cups (2015, 2019) and their fifth overall following titles in 1991 and 1999.
Meanwhile, Vietnam needed a late goal by Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy to defeat Chinese Taipei 2-1 in the Asian Cup playoffs in February 2022 to earn their first World Cup appearance in six tries.
“It has long been a desire for us to go to the Women’s World Cup, and all these years we have worked so hard to make it happen. Now we have realized our goal,” Nguyen told FIFA.com.
The USWNT keeps rolling despite adversity that would have derailed other programs.
Forwards Mallory Swanson and Christen Press, center back Becky Sauerbrunn and midfielders Catarina Macario and Samantha Mewis did not make the World Cup roster because of injuries.
Also, 38-year-old Megan Rapinoe has been plagued by injuries and announced early in July that she will retire at the end of this year.
What the Americans do have is a blend of veterans and budding young stars such as Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson.
Among the 23 players, 14 are at their first World Cup while Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Kelley O’Hara are set to compete in their fourth.
“You want to have this broad range of experience in players on the roster at a World Cup,” O’Hara said. “You want to have some experienced players. You want to have some players that are coming up for the first time.
“I think it comes down to understanding what you’re about to get into, and I think this group does understand that.”
Vietnam joins seven other countries making their World Cup debuts, aided in part by the field being expanded by eight to 32 since the 2019 tournament in France.