What We Know (And Don’t Know) After 2 World Cup Games

sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports editor): We’re two games into group stage of the Women’s World Cup, and there’s a lot we already know: Nine teams have already advanced to the knockout rounds, and even though she has played only one game, Alex Morgan looks like the player to beat for the Golden Boot.

But there’s also plenty that we’re still waiting to learn. How will the seeding shake out? Which of the third-place teams will advance? And how will the American women fare against more robust competition?

After a first-game drubbing of Thailand, the U.S. took a subdued but still convincing win against Chile. What were your takeaways from Sunday’s match?

TerrenceDoyle (Terrence Doyle, contributor): I think it would be hard not to talk about the play of Chile’s goalkeeper, Christiane Endler, and how things could have been much worse without her sublime performance.

emily (Emily Scherer, designer): Christiane Endler!!!!!!!!!!!

TerrenceDoyle: She was unreal!

sara.ziegler: Christen Press will be having nightmares about Endler for a while.

emily: She even got into Carli Lloyd’s head in the penalty kick!

sara.ziegler: Endler had six saves on nine shots on target. Pretty impressive.

tchow (Tony Chow, video producer): The roster changes were a big story for the match against Chile, but I was really surprised at how some of those fringe players played. It feels really wrong to even call them second string, but players like Ali Krieger and Tierna Davidson and even Moe Brian played pretty well!

TerrenceDoyle: I think that’s right. The U.S. “bench” was a known entity coming into this tournament, but … wow. Just wow. There are a lot of great players in this tournament, but I don’t think any team has the strength in depth that the U.S. has.

sara.ziegler: It did feel like the starters might have finished some of those shots in the second half, but against a keeper like Endler, maybe not!

TerrenceDoyle: The eye test says Endler has been pretty remarkable in this tournament — some of the saves she’s made have looked impossible — but her goals prevented mark is actually in the red. One of those instances where the eye test and the analytics aren’t jelling.

neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Endler leads the entire World Cup in saves right now, with 10. South Africa’s Andile Dlamini is second with nine saves. However, she has faced 27 shots. Endler has faced fifty.

TerrenceDoyle: FIFTY.

emily: That’s hockey numbers!

sara.ziegler: Holy crap.

TerrenceDoyle: Chile, ah, need more of the ball?

tchow: I am curious to know how many of those shots were on target against her though. All 50? There’s no way.

neil: Nah. Only 15. But still, a lot of danger coming her way, most due to the U.S. just controlling so much of the play.

The Americans had a higher share of all shot attempts (on goal or not) against Chile than they did in the 13-0 romp over Thailand.

And the possession percentages were roughly even between the games.

tchow: Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Endler has faced the U.S. and Sweden. Outside of the U.S., the Swedes are tied for second with Italy with the most goals in the tournament so far.

TerrenceDoyle: Still quite a fair amount. In terms of keepers who have played in both their nation’s games, Endler is facing more shots on goal per game than any other.

emily: Has Alyssa Naeher faced the least?

neil: Somehow Carly Telford of England has faced one fewer than Naeher. (But in one game.)

TerrenceDoyle: As has Sarah Bouhaddi of France (in two games).

sara.ziegler: But don’t forget Stephanie Labbé of Canada, who has faced a grand total of ZERO shots on target. (Against Cameroon and New Zealand.)

tchow: Canada, the U.S. and Germany have yet to be scored against in the tournament so far.

neil: From the U.S. perspective, all of these shot differential stats really point to the idea that these first two matches were glorified warmups. What have we learned about the Americans so far? Can you learn anything from these lopsided mismatches?

TerrenceDoyle: They’ve been ruthless in front of goal, which is good for confidence going forward. They’re outperforming their expected goal numbers so far. We’ll see how that holds up against Sweden, which gave them fits in 2015.

sara.ziegler: ^^^ and in 2016!

TerrenceDoyle: true!

tchow: All due respect to Thailand and Chile, that is a good perspective to keep in mind, Neil. The game on Thursday against Sweden will tell us a lot.

TerrenceDoyle: Opposition aside, the Americans have already far outpaced their goal tally from the group stage four years ago. (They scored just four times in 2015!)

sara.ziegler: We haven’t learned much about the goalkeeping, that’s for sure. The one time the U.S. came closest to giving up a goal against Chile — a play in which the Chilean striker was ultimately offside — Naeher made a pretty big mistake in coming off her line.

emily: I would have loved to see Ashlyn Harris get some minutes, but coach Jill Ellis has been very clear that it’s Naeher’s job.

tchow: Emily, I was surprised with all her changes in this second game that she didn’t give Harris some game time too.

emily: I wasn’t surprised! Ellis has been doing this since Hope Solo left.

TerrenceDoyle: Is it because goalkeeping is such a confidence-based position? You want your goalie to be in a groove.

sara.ziegler: Is it a confidence-boosting thing?

Ha — jinx

TerrenceDoyle: lol

emily: But come on, give me Harris and Ali Krieger on the field together!

tchow: It would have been great to see Harris and Krieger play together. I understand Ellis for wanting to stick with her goalie, but this would have been the perfect game to bring on someone else.

TerrenceDoyle: Agree on that. And you have to figure it won’t happen going forward, barring injury or a disastrous performance vs. Sweden.

tchow: I don’t think anyone was sure how much playing time or how well Krieger would play in this tournament, but she got a full 90 minutes and more than held her own: 84 percent pass completion as a right back, and she won 71 percent of her duels, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.

TerrenceDoyle: The Carli Lloyd left-footed volley against Chile is the goal of the tournament so far, idc what anyone says. The degree of difficulty, while falling backward, to get anything on that ball, let alone as much as Lloyd got on it, is high.

sara.ziegler: idk, Terrence, that Julie Ertz header was pretty incredible:

tchow: What patriots you all are. Such U.S. bias. If we’re talking goal of the tournament, Amandine Henry’s in the opening game was ridiculous.

sara.ziegler: USA! USA!

neil: And what about Christen Press’s rocket out of a volley from the left side (even if it was saved)?

TerrenceDoyle: There have been some other *absolute bangers* so far! I just can’t get my head around the Lloyd finish.

emily: What a tournament for Alex Morgan. She’s been the face of the team for years, but this feels like her real breakout on the field after grabbing only one goal in the 2015 World Cup and two in 2011, and it’s only just started!

neil: It was great to see her do the bulk of the crazy scoring in the 13-0 win.

I think even she was surprised that the goals kept coming, and coming, and coming, and coming…

TerrenceDoyle: The Golden Boot race is going to be fun. Especially if Cristiane keeps this up for Brazil.

sara.ziegler: Curious about your opinions on this: Did the U.S. let up a little after the 13-0 game? Did that criticism affect them at all?

neil: Certainly it affected their celebrations against Chile.

sara.ziegler: That golf clap KILLED ME.

tchow: I don’t think they let up, and I would actually be really disappointed if we find out later that they did.

TerrenceDoyle: With all due respect to Thailand, I think Chile is a stronger side with a better goalkeeper. The U.S. still dominated play and even passed the ball better/more cleanly against Chile.

neil: Even though they scored 10 fewer goals, they could have scored more if not for the huge saves.

TerrenceDoyle: 100 percent, Neil.

tchow: I honestly can’t believe how long that 13-0 scoreline stayed in the headlines and my news feeds.

neil: In fairness, that is a WILD score for a soccer game.

TerrenceDoyle: Very much so. But agree, Tony. Had to not look at soccer Twitter for, like, a week. (Which, tbh, was a welcome vacation for my brain, which is filled with worms at this point because of soccer Twitter.)

sara.ziegler: Friend of the site Michael Caley posts expected-goal maps after every match, and that one was AMAZING:

tchow: thErEs nOt EnOUgh scOrInG iN SOcCeR. tHeRes TOO MUCH ScORinG iN socCeR

sara.ziegler: 🤣

emily: It’s familiar for Thailand, but this was the first time they’ve been on the other side of things. In 2018, they beat Indonesia 13-0 and Cambodia 11-0.

TerrenceDoyle: “OK, so the point of all sports is to score as many goals/points as possible.”

“WHY DID YOU SCORE AS MANY GOALS AS POSSIBLE?!?!?!”

sara.ziegler: But also, make sure you don’t celebrate your accomplishments, or celebrate the accomplishments or your teammates.

But if you don’t celebrate the accomplishments or your teammates, WHY AREN’T YOU FRIENDSSSSSSSS?

There is truly no winning.

emily: There’s never any winning in women’s sports.

sara.ziegler: Ain’t that the truth.

TerrenceDoyle: Imagine your friend worked for, like, half a decade or more to reach the pinnacle of their career, then they got there, and they celebrated, and you were like, “Sorry, your celebrations are a little MUCH.”

tchow: Nuengruetai Srathongvian, Thailand’s coach, spoke about the loss, and I think what she said should have ended all discussion about whether the scoreline was problematic. So with that in mind, let’s move on.

sara.ziegler: Let’s look ahead to Sweden, a very familiar foe. This match doesn’t matter THAT much, but it’s important for seeding, and of course the U.S. doesn’t want to lose its last group game. What can we expect out of this game?

TerrenceDoyle: (if they win and france wins, they’re on the same side and can see one another in the quarters, yes?)

tchow: (yes)

TerrenceDoyle: THE U.S. SHOULD TANK.

Kidding, but only sort of.

tchow: Don’t say it, Terrence. Don’t say it. Ahhh, damn it.

sara.ziegler: Hahahaha

TerrenceDoyle: lolol sorry

sara.ziegler: But if the Americans lose to Sweden, they could face Germany in the quarters! No easy roads.

tchow: Going back to Sara’s question, I would expect Ellis to go back to her A-team lineup for this game.

An A-Team that doesn’t include Lloyd or Press or Pugh. LOL, the US are ridiculous.

emily: Ridiculously stacked.

TerrenceDoyle: You can only play the opponent in front of you, and if that happens to be France, it happens to be France. They’re probably going to have to beat them at some point if they want to win the whole thing, so if that’s in the quarters, it’s in the quarters.

So, yeah, roll that A-Team out and exact revenge on Sweden.

Sorry, that was aggressive. I mean Sweden no harm.

sara.ziegler: The U.S. is the only team with more expected goals so far (11.28) than Sweden’s 8.09, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.

They’ve played the same competition, of course, but that has to be a little worrying to the Americans.

TerrenceDoyle: And Sweden hasn’t been taking full advantage of that high xG mark either.

sara.ziegler: Yeah. And they’ve had just 18 shots on target to the U.S.’s 29.

TerrenceDoyle: Kosovare Asllani and Madelen Janogy have both been quietly good so far for Sweden. I think this match could be about containing them, honestly.

sara.ziegler: Leaving the U.S.-Sweden match behind, which other teams have impressed you all the most?

TerrenceDoyle: ITALY

tchow: I was just about to say Italy too. We gave them just a 59 percent chance of advancing to the round of 16 before the tournament. They’ve already qualified.

TerrenceDoyle: Canada are low-key looking very dangerous right now.

They’re scoring less than their xG numbers say they should be and winning anyway. If they start taking their chances, they’ll look a threat. Especially if Christine Sinclair starts burying her chances. Which, I mean, she will.

emily: ARGENTINA 🇦🇷

sara.ziegler: Argentina has been really surprising! They had a very smart game plan against England.

TerrenceDoyle: Goalkeeper Vanina Correa has been absurd.

sara.ziegler: The one time they deviated from their plan … England scored.

TerrenceDoyle: The Correa save on the Nikita Parris penalty kick was SPECIAL. Also LOL that it was England’s first ever pen miss at a World Cup. The men should take notes.

Correa leads in goals prevented per 90 among goalies who have played in both of their team’s games as a result. She’s also the main reason Argentina still has a chance at advancing.

tchow: Argentina is another squad our projections were down on and probably wrong about. They have a 25 percent chance of making it now, which still seems low to me.

sara.ziegler: They’re looking up at quite a few teams that already have 3 points. And they just have the 1.

TerrenceDoyle: Cruel sport. They’ve played better than their points total suggests.

neil: Somehow our model had Argentina rated lower than both Chile and Thailand (!) before the tournament. (Still does, actually.)

emily: They lost their funding from the Argentine soccer federation for a few years.

sara.ziegler: Is that part of the consequence of not being able to schedule enough matches?

It’s been great to see them play so well, though, given what they’ve been through.

tchow: Argentina could still get second place if England ends up beating Japan in the final group game.

TerrenceDoyle: As a Correa fan boy, I hope they make a run at it.

tchow: There’s been a lot of talk about goalkeeper performance in this chat already, but Correa has been ridiculous. She has an 89 percent save percentage right now.

sara.ziegler: As the first of the third matches get started right now, what are your final thoughts on what we’ve seen so far?

emily: Sinclair is four goals away from breaking Abby Wambach’s record. Will she do it?

TerrenceDoyle: VAR is bad and is turning the sport into a surveillance state. That yellow on the pen save for Sydney Schneider in Jamaica v. Italy was … I mean, it was terrible. It’s soooo hard to save a pen. The success rate for shooters is something like 70 percent. It’s taken from so close, the net is so big, goalies should be able to do whatever they want.

sara.ziegler: It will be very interesting to see if any changes come to VAR after all of this.

Seems worse than last year in the men’s World Cup.

TerrenceDoyle: Straitjackets for defenders because everything is a handball now.

tchow: Next chat, can we devote the entire thing to kit talk? I’ve been dying to talk to someone about China’s gray away kits.

sara.ziegler: LOL. Totally, Tony.

emily: Australia’s kit ❤ ❤ ❤

tchow: There are so many exciting games that don’t involve the U.S. to close out these group stages! Netherlands vs. Canada in Group E. England vs. Japan in Group D. Group C is all kinds of crazy with Brazil, Australia and Italy. More soccer!!

TerrenceDoyle: Group C is definitely in for a wild finish, Tony. Soccer is fun, the World Cup is fun!!!

sara.ziegler: But also: USA! USA!

emily: 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸

Check out our latest Women’s World Cup predictions.