There were a couple of big topics in the world of sports this week, but one I wanted to touch on came on Tuesday with the U.S. Women’s National Team and their 13-0 victory over Thailand.
This game set a record for most goals scored by a team in a FIFA World Cup Finals match for either gender*, the largest margin of victory in a FIFA World Cup match for either gender**, the most individual goal scorers in a single FIFA Women’s World Cup match and a tie for the most goals scored by a single person in a FIFA World Cup Finals match.***
That in itself is cause for celebration, but for some reason, it was also controversial, which I don’t get.
First, if there is still anyone out there who thinks “they should have stopped scoring,” let’s just address that right now. In soccer, the first tiebreaker after wins and losses is almost always goal differential (goals scored minus goals allowed). Anyone that doesn’t understand should just stop reading right now, bit I’ll circle back to it in a bit.
Second, there were plenty of pundits out there who said that the U.S. should stop celebrating after the game was won. That is also ridiculous. These women have been working their entire lives, put in countless hours, to get to this moment. Each goal they score at the World Cup may be the last one they ever score there. Each goal may be the pinnacle of their lives. Think about the best moment of your life. Didn’t you celebrate when it happened?
Third, there were commentators who said these criticisms wouldn’t be levied against the men’s national team.
As I write these hundreds of random words about sports for Manchester Ink Link, I intend to write more about women’s sports in the future because women’s sports deserve more attention and there’s plenty to discuss about them, so I won’t say too much here.
That being said, the men’s national team wishes it could score as many goals in a game. Their all-time record in all competitions is eight in a qualifier against Barbados in 2008, and one of those goals was an own goal gifted with just a few minutes left.
The Thailand result wasn’t even a record for the women, they put up 14 against the Dominican Republic a few years back.
So, for any parents trying to explain to their kids why this score is okay, but it might not be if they did it in one of their games some random weekend, here’s what those kids should be told.
At the rarified level of the World Cup, sports are basically a proxy for war. Nations facing each other in combat to assert dominance. The fact that it happened here with a ball instead of weapons doesn’t change that underlying fact. Thailand’s team consists of players assessed to be the best female players in their country, designated by their soccer federation to represent them on that field of figurative battle. To treat them as anything less than that would be disrespectful.
But not all sporting events have that underlying purpose. There are times when the purpose is development or enjoyment for the players involved. With any contest including players only under the age of 18 (or whatever is considered “young”, I guess), it may be ethically questionably to give any other underlying purpose to those contests. Running up the score there probably will not make the players involved any better or increase their enjoyment.
Simple enough, but perhaps a reminder is needed here, at least for now. The Americans will not be running up the score against the French or Germans or Italians in the knock-out rounds, and if they lose, we can still look back on those moments of joy after each goal and have at least one reason to smile to take away from this tournament as American soccer fans.
*- In 2002, Australia defeated American Samoa, 31-0. However, that was a World Cup Qualifying match. The largest amount for one men’s team is Hungary’s 10 over El Salvador in 1982.
**- Three teams in the FIFA Men’s World Cup won by nine goals: Hungary 9-0 over South Korea in 1954, Yugoslavia 9-0 over Zaire in 1974 and Hungary 10-1 over El Salvador in 1982.
***- Alex Morgan scored five for the US, tying Oleg Salenko’s five for Russia against Cameroon in 1994.