The United States launched their bid for an unprecedented third consecutive world crown with a comfortable win against Women’s World Cup debutants Vietnam in Auckland.

Sophia Smith struck twice before half-time for the four-time world champions in front of thousands of travelling USA fans in a crowd of 41,107.

Smith, one of 14 players in the squad appearing at their first World Cup, fired the number-one ranked team in the world ahead with a low drilled finish from an angle.

Her second was awarded following a lengthy check by the Video Assistant Referee for an offside before captain Lindsey Horan, after an assist by Smith, swept home the third in the 77th minute.

There was a memorable moment for Vietnam keeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh when she was mobbed by her jubilant team-mates after keeping out Alex Morgan’s penalty, which was awarded for a foul on Trinity Rodman.

Vietnam rarely managed to get out of their own half but worked hard and produced a gritty defensive performance to keep the score line respectable.

Bigger tests to come

While this was not the hammering some had predicted in the build-up, the United States did enough to get their campaign off to a winning start.

Four years ago in France they recorded the biggest Women’s World Cup win, a 13-0 thrashing of Thailand, in their opening game on the way to winning the tournament.

They carved out enough chances against Vietnam to record another double-digit win and there was a tinge of disappointment from boss Vlatko Andonovski that his side did not make the most of their 28 attempts.

The USA arrived in New Zealand as favourites but tougher tests lie ahead and only after Thursday’s match against the Netherlands in Wellington – a repeat of the 2019 final – will their fans learn more about whether they can make it three World Cup successes in a row.

This was so comfortable that Andonovski sent on 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson for her first taste of the World Cup, while fellow substitute and icon Megan Rapinoe also made her 200th appearance for the Stars and Stripes – 17 years to the weekend she made her debut.

Rapinoe had a chance to mark the milestone with a goal but failed to take her chance, while Rose Lavelle struck the bar in the closing stages.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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