13-0 and referee thoughts

The US Women’s National Team demolished the Thai team in a pool play round game in the Women’s World Cup by the score of 13-0. There is no optimal way to get out of this game.

For the United States, their objective of the game once it got out of hand in the 56th minute is to show up for the next game with a full roster that is healthy, that is confident, that is clicking and that is eligible to play. The US coach pulled two of her better offensive players when it was 7-0. Six minutes before that, the score was only 3-0. No coach at that level will be moving a player cold from the bench to the field. An under six minute decision cycle is fast. And once the bench was as empty as it could be, the Americans could either continue to play their game of counter-attack and press (which is what they did) or they could discombobulate themselves with pointless (and insulting) back third to mid-third possession. They played their game.

The Thai team hung for as long as they could and then they got overwhelmed. It happens. If they did not want to get demolished, they had choices. They could try to play defense with ten or eleven behind the ball. They could actually control the ball and establish a mid-field game. That is tough. Or once the game got out of hand, the coach could have put the last two options on the bench in at the sixtieth minute with the instruction that if any of the substitutes had no plastic pulled on them in the next ten minutes, this would be their only playing time. A few over the ball, studs up challenges would have slowed the American team down. The American coaches, whose incentive once the score went out of reach is to keep the team healthy and available for the next match, would have gotten a clue. The Thais picked up a single yellow for the entire match. This was a choice.

The referee team is in a no win situation. Refereeing at a major FIFA tournament is a cut-throat business. Every game, every decision is evaluated and assessed. In a game that is not competitive, the referee team only has downside risk. Their decisions can only be held against them if they missed a foul or issued a direct free kick when there should have been a caution. Good decisions are expected and there is no opportunity to demonstrate game management skills.

The objective of the referee team is to fairly and appropriate apply the laws of the game to the contest on the field to facilitate a safe and fair display of skill. As long as the Americans are pressing forward and the Thais are not going studs-up into throw-ins, there is nothing for the referees to do. A lot of the little hacks that referees at far lower levels can get away with aren’t available to a World Cup crew. They can’t cut stoppage time, they can’t hear thunder miles away, they can’t make an observation to a midfielder that the game is out of reach and injuries are a concern for next week and that the midfielder should ponder that observation. Their incentive is to treat the game as if it is 2-2 in the 88th minute.

At far lower levels (high school, youth developmental leagues) the referee can shape the game in the interest of getting out of the game as quickly and with as little accidental or temperamental plastic shown as possible. But the Women’s World Cup is not a U-15 boys game whose players are strong enough, dumb enough and just skilled enough to “accidentally” destroy someone’s knees out of frustration. In the WWC, all the players are strong enough, smart enough and skilled enough to intentionally destroy a knee if that is what they choose.

13-0 is a no win situation for everyone on the field. But in a professional game with professional players, those days happen.

41 replies
  1. 1
    trollhattan says:

    Seems fair. Now, folks want to talk about “celebrations” too. Whatevs. Four WWC newbies score on their inaugural match, two with braces. Yeah, they’re excited and yeah, I think they wanted to make a point–“You think France is the team to beat. Watch this.”

    Game on.

    IIUC US and France can theoretically meet in the quarters. I want this match. (Le Bleu just put away Norway 2-1, scoring all three goals.) Sweden next week is our first test and they’re pretty, pretty good.

  2. 2
    cmorenc says:

    I get respecting your opponent by playing hard, even after the game is insurmountably won.

    However, I am disgusted by Megan Rapinoe and her teammates’ grossly excessive celebration of Rapinoe’s goal that put them up 9-0. VERY bad form. Karma will eventually pay back for the team showing their ass like that – yeah, they were carried away with the enthusiasm and joy of the moment, but it still looks more like an unsporting dance on a hapless opponent’s grave, and invites bad karma at a more critical competitive moment in the future for the USWNT. Totally classless behavior.

    Longtime soccer referee here myself.

  3. 3
    TomatoQueen says:

    I’m glad you said all that, as I am getting really tired of all the girly commentators’ weenieness (except for Alexei who is always ready to break knees and cheerfully so). Calm it down indeed.

  4. 4
    ThresherK says:

    This didn’t bother me. It’s a low-scoring sport (as is hockey). Goals are rare.

  5. 5
    Luc says:

    There is so much to celebrate when beating up on an inferior team (regarding soccer technique as well as physically weaker). The argument that the respect for your opponent forces you to keep pressing for 13 goals is ridiculous.

  6. 6
    TomatoQueen says:

    @ThresherK: I’m minded of a certain ManU v Arse game, or an Arse v TOON game, when the goals went above 6 and the celebrations were teeth-grindingly arrogant, if you like. I’m minded of wotsit one of many lucky managers of Sunderpants, goal sliding down the touchline (thank fuck we don’t have to play them for a good while yet). Goals are rare. Celebrate while you can cos that ACL can pop any time. And be sure not to have ladyparts while you’re at it, lest the hoity and the toity get up on their hind legs at you.

  7. 7

    Thought I read somewhere that the amount of goals you score works towards your ranking in the tournament somehow. Is this right?

  8. 8
    Kent says:

    These women are professionals at the top of their sport. Plus they are the returning favorites so they know eyes will be on them. Unlike pretty much any other sport, there are really no time outs for the coach and team to basically say “tone it down guys, at least on the celebrations.”

    But hey, if they can’t take the heat and are surprised that people are going to talk about a 13-0 shellacking then they don’t belong here.

    I thought they probably could have toned it down after about 5 goals and be more workman like about the scoring. But those are just style points that don’t really matter.

    Yes they now have targets on their backs but they had that already. Nothing has really changed.

  9. 9
    BlueDWarrior says:

    @John Revolta: tie breakers sometimes ride on goal differences

  10. 10
    Luc says:

    Can we congratulate to winning the golden boot trophy already? After 5 goals in a non-competitive game.

  11. 11
    SenyorDave says:

    Class or lack thereof usually shows.

  12. 12
    VOR says:

    @BlueDWarrior: Goal differential is absolutely a tie breaker in this tournament.

  13. 13
    peej01 says:

    One quibble…the US coach is a her (Jill Ellis) not a his.

  14. 14
    Alain says:

    Turned off as I am by the excessive celebrations for the 9-13 goals, I also know that the team is involved in a sex discrimination lawsuit against USA Soccer and that they want to win and dominate as part of their legal strategy to demand equal pay and investment in training resources, etc.

    So each goal was another point in their favor in the courtroom, showing that they are doing the same job as the US men but better – winning and just crushing.

  15. 15
    Cacti says:


    Well, that’s one way to look at it.

    Another is that they face markedly inferior level of overall competition.

  16. 16
    Barbara says:

    @Alain: Not only that, but I find it somewhat ridiculous for FIFA to expand the pool of nations without regard to whether those nations are “ready” to compete internationally. The chance that such a game could ever be interesting for fans is pretty low, but if you make it into the equivalent of a sparring exercise or exhibition game you are depriving the fans of seeing an actual game.

  17. 17
    Variaga says:

    Most people will never score a goal in a World Cup game.
    Most professional soccer players will never score a goal in a World Cup game.
    Most (80%+)* professional soccer players who get assigned to a national team and actually play in the World Cup will never score a goal in a World cup game.

    Scoring a goal in the World Cup is an achievement worth celebrating, period.
    The idea that someone is being “unsporting” by celebrating because “too many” other people scored earlier is pure BS.

    Unsporting is coming in cleats up with intent to injure. Unsporting is diving to try and draw a card. Unsporting is deliberately knocking a goal in with your hand at an angle you know the ref can’t see (still looking at you Maradona).

    And as far as “beating up on poor Thailand” goes, here’s a couple historical scores that might interest you:
    – International friendly 27 May 2018 Indonesia 0 – 13 Thailand
    – AFF Women’s Championship 4 July 2018 Thailand 11 – 0 Cambodia
    – AFF Women’s Championship 6 July 2018 Malaysia 0 – 8 Thailand

  18. 18
    Felanius Kootea says:

    Reminds me of when Iran beat the Maldives 17-0 in an Asian Zone world cup qualifier match. It set a record for goals in a world cup match that I don’t think has been topped.

  19. 19
    Just One More Canuck says:

    If things get out of hand against Chile, I think there will be a lot of high tackles and spikes against calves.

  20. 20
    Mike E says:

    @Just One More Canuck: meh, a more organized side will probably give USWNT fits …their midfield play will determine how well they’ll fare against the elite teams, and Thailand didn’t test them there

  21. 21
    NobodySpecial says:

    Thailand isn’t a bad team at all. China played them recently and won 2-1. They just had a bad game, and the US had a really really good one.

  22. 22
    tokyokie says:

    Compare how this game went to the recent 12-0 shellacking Norway laid on Honduras in U20 play. Honduras was tagged with 18 fouls, 4 yellows, and 2 reds. And the final red card came in extra time of a match Honduras was losing in record fashion.

    As for Thailand, I’m reminded of what Billy Tubbs would say when his Oklahoma teams were racking up three-digit totals against opponents: “You don’t like it? Get better.”

  23. 23
    Kent says:

    @Just One More Canuck:

    If things get out of hand against Chile, I think there will be a lot of high tackles and spikes against calves.

    No, there won’t be. My family is Chilean. They have a lot of class. These aren’t the Italian or Uruguayan men. The Chilean team is mostly pros on Euro clubs and I think a couple of US college players.

    I expect they will come in with a more defensive plan and do their best to just try to hold back the US waves.

  24. 24
    trollhattan says:

    @Just One More Canuck:
    You may have misspelled China as “Chile.” Based on China v. Germany I’d say they’re willing to counter skill with straight aggression.

    TBH Chile, Italy and Spain have been pleasant surprises so far. Cameroon, too. ETA the Chile keeper is amazing.

  25. 25
    Ked says:

    Not only is goal differential the FIRST tiebreaker, remember that the other teams in the group will also get their chance against this same team. You’re not running up the score against Thailand, you’re running up the score against Sweden (not a historically weak team) and to a lesser extent Chile. Maybe, if this is game 3 of groups and you know what the other game’s score is you pull back, maybe. Not in game 1. That’s like telling Alabama to stop at 28 points when they’re beating up their sacrificial non-conf team every year.

    Now, excessive celebration is a different issue. First career world cup goals give you a lot of credit to burn, but past that the correct demeanor is “calmly and professionally happy”.

  26. 26
    Lit3Bolt says:

    There’s only handwringing about this because it was women. 13-0 men it would’ve been gloating across the board.

  27. 27
    SenyorDave says:

    @Lit3Bolt: Lack of class knows no gender.

  28. 28
    dman says:

    it was pure unsportsmanlike behaviour. When I coach my kids (hockey) I explain that after scoring a goal act like you have done it before. A fist pump, join your team then line up and get ready. There is NO excuse for Rapinoe and her excess. But hey it is the stereotypical American way ugly and loud

  29. 29
    encephalopath says:

    I don’t have a problem with goal celebration in this situation. It’s a World Cup match, not an international friendly. The US was playing a team that earned its way into the World Cup.

    You celebrate World Cup goals. It’s a goal in the fucking World Cup. You don’t taunt or mock the opponent you’re blowing out. You don’t shit talk them during or after the game. A World Cup goal is a goal in the World Cup, a thing to be celebrated with teammates.

    There is no clear path of least humiliation out of the blow out situation. The structure of the tournament demands that you score as many goals as possible in the group stage. If you don’t other people in the group will and you could find yourself on the short end of a goal differential tie breaker.

    Not celebrating goals during the blowout doesn’t really make things any better. Shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Whatever… it’s just Thailand,” is no less insulting than celebrating.

    Much of the questioning of the US team actions just seems like civility concern trolling to me.

  30. 30
    dman says:


    You don’t taunt or mock the opponent you’re blowing out.

    That is exactly what celebrating over the top is. If it was a hockey game you would rightfully have to answer for the BS

  31. 31
    dman says:


    Much of the questioning of the US team actions just seems like civility concern trolling to me.

    Just a question, if the Thai players responded with high tackles and aggressive play would that, if called out, also be civility concern trolling?

    edit to add concern

  32. 32
    catbirdman says:

    Given that total goals matter, there’s no issue with running up the score, but for a team to celebrate its 13th goal in a first-round match the way they would celebrate a championship-clinching goal is just simply obnoxious, regardless of gender, and will rightfully engender ill will from other squads. I’d prefer to see Americans act with more grace and restraint on the world stage.

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    They could try to play defense with ten or eleven behind the ball.

    No, parking the bus wouldn’t have worked for Thailand. They were so lacking in size, strength, speed, skill, and organisation compared to the USA that there was never hope of any other result. Thailand are only going to get thrashed in the rest of their group matches, and there is no way to avoid that eiher.

    I think the real problem here is that a very sub-standard team was at the Women’s World Cup for the sake of geographical represention.

    Were the US goal celebrations over the top? They seemed pretty mild compared to what I’ve seen in the men’s game.

  34. 34
    Butter emails!!! says:

    Sure, I mean deliberately trying to injure the other players and engaging in rules violations is totally the same as celebrating a goal.

  35. 35
    lee says:

    So I have a question about one of today’s games: France vs Norway

    The penalty that gave France the go-ahead. Is this a new rule or a new interpretation of an old rule?

    The defender clearly contacted the ball and was even pulling back to avoid collision. Her foot after contact with the ball contacted the forward. Apparently this is now a foul so it resulted in a penalty kick.

    If this is actually the way it is going to be the men are going to be falling all over themselves every time a defender tackles them in the box.

    I was with most of commentators, that it was 100% bullshit and if this is actually the way the rule is going to be implemented it will dramatically change the game.

  36. 36
    lee says:

    Oh and on topic:

    It’s the World Cup, put your big girl pants on and quit complaining. If the men had done it no one would have batted an eye.

  37. 37
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @lee: Women should be sweet and demure, donchano.

  38. 38
    Captain C says:

    @Felanius Kootea: It was, in 2001, when Australia whomped American Samoa in the Oceanian World Cup qualifying matches by an American football blow-out sounding score of 31-0.

    It led to the Oceanian zone implementing a preliminary qualifying round, and eventually (as they wanted) Australia being switched to the Asian confederation, where it would have a chance to qualify for a spot in the finals directly, instead of always having to play a 3rd-5th place team from North or South America, or Africa, or Asia once they won their own confederation.

    Striker Archie Thompson scored 13 all by himself in the match. David Zdrillic accounted for another 8, Con Boutsanis had a hat trick, there were three more braces, and eight seven players overall scored. Apparently, this game was a few days after Australia had clobbered Tonga by a then-record score of 22-0. I think they were trying to make a point.

  39. 39
    Tom says:

    i heard one commentator say if those celebrations happened in a men’s game there would have been multiple takedowns.

  40. 40
    ExpatDanBKK says:

    @SenyorDave: Exactly. And the score, I don’t care. It is what it is. It’s the sportsmanship, the rubbing their face in it that was distasteful. Gender neutral for sure! Maybe I’m just old, but I played on a NCAA Div 1 football championship team. We didn’t do that. Others after us did, and were rightfully hated (to this day) for it.

  41. 41
    billcinsd says:

    The problem I have with the US’ game was substituting Pugh, a forward, for Ertz, a defender/holding midfielder, when up 7-0 in the 69th minute. This led to scoring 6 goals in 25 minutes. The US had at least 5 defenders and holding midfielders on the bench that could have played, which could have and likely would have led to fewer goals

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