Reigning champions USA Women will begin the defence of their Women’s World Cup crown when they lock horns with Vietnam Women in Auckland in the early hours of Saturday morning.
While the USA are seeking to retain the silverware, this is Vietnam’s first appearance at either a men’s or women’s World Cup.
The USWNT qualified for the World Cup as the Group A winner in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship in 2022, while Vietnam qualified by winning in the playoffs for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
USA skipper Becky Sauerbrunn confirmed last month that she would miss the World Cup finals due to a foot injury.
The reigning champions will also head into the tournament without Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis, Christen Press, Catarina Macario and Mallory Swanson, who have all been ruled out with injury issues.
In attack, Sophia Smith could be the star of this tournament, forming a formidable front three alongside Trinity Rodman and 2019 golden boot winner Alex Morgan.
Meanwhile, Vietnam will be looking towards their all-time leading scorer Huynh Nhu to provide the goal threat, while goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh could be in for a busy 90 minutes.
USA Women (-6) @ 7/5
The USA come into the tournament as overwhelming favourites, and I expect them to start with a bang here in their opening match.
The Stars and Stripes are looking for a third-successive World Cup crown and have won their last nine games heading into the tournament, with an aggregate scoreline of 21-2.
Meanwhile, Vietnam have lost their last three and were demolished 9-0 by Spain in their final warm-up tie.
Four summers ago, the USWNT recorded the biggest margin of victory in World Cup history, smashing Thailand 13-0, with fellow-southeast Asian outfit Vietnam seeking to avoid a similar scoreline.
I’m expecting the USA to rack up an emphatic scoreline.
Alex Morgan to score a hat-trick @ 11/5
With nine World Cup goals to her name, Morgan is the USA’s fourth-highest leading goalscorer at the tournament – but just six more goals at this summer’s tournament would bring her to the number one spot.
I can’t see that being an issue for Morgan, who netted six goals in six games when the USWNT lifted the World Cup back in 2019.
The San Diego Wave striker also won the golden boot during the USA’s qualifying campaign for the World Cup, scoring on three occasions.