Monday , October 18 2021

USWNT finally kicks off the World Cup title defense with departure in Thailand



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US right-hander Rose Lavelle is congratulated by Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath on the left after scoring in the first half of a friendly international soccer game against New Zealand on Thursday, May 16, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson)

REIMS, France – The wait is finally over. After four years, the women's team of the United States will begin their defense for the World Cup title.

"This team is united in a way that I have never seen before … and feeling completely out of the way that we are the last day," said American forward Alex Morgan, drawing laughter during a press conference on Monday afternoon .

The USA and Thailand play their last game of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup group game, which began four days earlier in Paris. The kickoff is scheduled for 15:00. ET on Tuesday at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, which is expected to draw a crowd of more than 21,000.

The Americans are designed to easily get through Thailand in this first test of Group F. They are ranked first in the world. Thailand is the 34th. They are trying to win a second consecutive World Cup title. Thailand is making its second appearance at the World Cup.

The only other time the US and Thailand faced was in 2016 and the Americans won 9-0. The US never lost the opening of the World Cup.

There is a climate of calm and confidence among US players who arrived in Reims on Friday, trained locally and explored the historic city about an hour northeast of Paris.

"We feel prepared. The process has been long, but I think the players we selected and the preparation were excellent, and we're ready to focus on tomorrow's game, "said Ellis on Monday.

After Thailand, the USA will play No. 39 Chile on June 16 in Paris and then number 9 in Sweden on June 20 in Le Havre – both also expected the sale.

Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath lead an unparalleled front line. And Ellis has a fiercely motivated and seasoned veteran in Carli Lloyd's seat. Lloyd was the star of the 2015 World Cup, scoring a hat trick in the final, and is known to be big in major tournaments.

Lloyd, 36, is also the oldest player on the oldest list – averaging 28.5 years – at the World Cup. Tierna Davidson, 20, is the youngest player in the United States.

A perceived weakness is the bottom line of Americans. In the event of a break, the final line of defense is Alyssa Naeher, who is making her World Cup debut as an early goalkeeper, after supporting Hope Solo.

"I'm excited to be in the tournament," said Naeher, 31. "I feel good.I feel confident, ready to go.My teammates make me feel this every day.

Morgan, 29, will face a colleague at the University of California at Berkeley in Thailand, Suchawadee Nildhamrong, 22, better known as Miranda Nild. The two paths crossed in the stadium corridor between your pre-game news conferences. Nild was the Golden Bears' offensive player of the year as a junior and scored 13 goals in his four years in college.

"I just met her in the hallway, so it's already a friendly fire. I introduced myself to her. I was the proactive one, so I already have an advantage in that, "Morgan said jokingly. "She's a player who has done very well with the Thai team and I'm looking forward to it."

Ellis responds

Former US goalkeeper Hope Solo criticized Ellis' leadership during an interview with the BBC, saying that Ellis is under pressure and depends on his assistants.

When asked about Solo's remarks, Ellis replied, "Comments are comments."

She continued, "For me personally, I feel that in the last five years I have made many important decisions and I have processes to make those decisions, and I am the owner of those processes. At this point, everything and every focus is on this group of players who are here and now. Experts, out there, that's part of it. And part of the message is always to ensure focus is on the inside of the game. And that's where we are.

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