Sophia Smith scores twice for US in 3-0 victory over Vietnam to open the Women’s World Cup


 (Reuters) - Sophia Smith scored a first-half brace on her Women's World Cup debut as the United States got their bid for a third successive title off to a comfortable start with a 3-0 win over Vietnam at Eden Park on Saturday.

The four-times champions have put their trust in the next generation this year and were rewarded with a showstopping performance from the 22-year-old forward, who also provided the assist for co-captain Lindsey Horan's goal in the second half.

Vietnam were scarcely able to breach the final third on their World Cup debut but goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh dived to her right to save Alex Morgan's first-half penalty in one of several good chances the Americans spurned.

"I thought we played a good game," U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski told reporters.

"Unfortunately we didn't capitalize on all the opportunities - great opportunities - we created."

Smith scored her first in the 14th minute off a neat flick-through from Morgan and fired her second from close range during stoppage time at the end of the half, the strike was initially ruled out for offside but confirmed after a VAR review.

Horan, who assumed the captaincy this year, made amends for an earlier miss when she got on the scoresheet in the 77th minute after Smith cut the ball back to the center of the box having beaten a defender on the right flank.

The Americans dominated possession with eight shots on target, while underdogs Vietnam battled hard but were unable to get a single shot on goal over the 90 minutes.

"We tried to be more tactical, skillful," Vietnam coach Mai Duc Chung told reporters via a translator.

"In terms of spirit, we are very satisfied here today."

The heavy American presence in the crowd of 41,107 roared with pleasure as Megan Rapinoe, who plans to retire at the end of this year, took the field in the second half but the 38-year-old missed a golden scoring opportunity in the 70th minute.

Substitute midfielder Rose Lavelle was also left frustrated as a shot in the 85th minute ricocheted off the crossbar and another chance went over the net in second-half stoppage time.

The U.S. faces the Netherlands on Thursday in their second Group E game, a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final, while Vietnam next play Portugal.

"The first one is in the books and the focus immediately shifts to game two," Andonovski said.

Reporting by Amy Tennery in Auckland; editing by Robert Birsel

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