Four years ago, the United States and Thailand were the very last teams to begin their Women’s World Cup campaigns. As defending champions, the USWNT were eager to lay down a marker, a warning sign to their competitors that they didn’t intend to relinquish their crown without a fight.
And, with a historic 13-0 drubbing of their opponents, that’s exactly what they accomplished.
In eight editions of the Women’s World Cup from 1991 to 2019, we have seen some very lopsided results. As the tournament field has expanded, debutant countries have had to endure some growing pains before finding their footing.
The highest margin of victory in the 2011 World Cup was only four goals. The reason for such close competition may be that the 2011 tournament was the fourth straight edition with a field of 16 teams. As the 2023 World Cup expands the field from 24 to 32 teams, we may yet see a few more historic results, such as the Netherlands beating Vietnam 7-0 to beat the USWNT to the top of Group E.
Here are the 10 biggest margins of victory ever seen at the Women’s World Cup, with all but two of these results taking place during the group stage…
Netherlands 7-0 Vietnam on August 1, 2023
Rising star Esmee Brugts scored two sublime long-range strikes as the Netherlands rediscovered their scoring touch to crush Vietnam and beat the USWNT to the top of Group E on goal difference.
The Netherlands had only managed to score once in their previous two games, narrowly overcoming Portugal before drawing with the reigning world champions.
But, with a place at the top of Group E up for grabs on the final day of group stage matches, they thrashed Vietnam to book their spot in the knockout round, finding themselves 4-0 up inside 25 minutes.
United States 7–0 Chinese Taipei on November 24, 1991
The very first World Cup knockout match the USWNT ever played still holds the record for biggest margin of victory in a knockout-stage match by any team.
After opening the inaugural World Cup tournament with a 3-2 win over Sweden, an impressive result given Sweden’s ensuing 8-0 victory over Japan, the U.S. finished group play in China with shutout wins over Brazil and Japan.
In the quarter-final against Chinese Taipei, Michelle Akers (then known as Michelle Akers-Stahl) scored five goals, all within the first 48 minutes. That performance stood as the outright single-game World Cup record until Alex Morgan matched it with her five goals against Thailand in 2019.
After defeating Germany in the semi-finals, the U.S. met Norway in the final. Akers scored both of their goals in a 2-1 win as the USWNT won the first of their World Cup titles.
Norway 7–0 Canada on June 10, 1995
Four days after their 8-0 win over Nigeria, Norway nearly matched that result with this 7-0 victory against Canada. They finished the group stage with three wins, 17 goals for and zero against, making an emphatic statement of intent en route to winning the 1995 tournament held in Sweden.
Norway’s blowout victories over Nigeria and Canada saw two players score in both matches. Ann Kristin Aarones recorded a hat trick-trick against Canada after scoring two goals against Nigeria, while Hege Riise scored one goal in each match.
China 7–0 Ghana on June 23, 1999
China was a major player in the first five editions of the World Cup. They hosted the 1991 and 2007 editions, and reached the semi-finals in both 1995 and 1999.
After losing the third-place play-off against the U.S. in 1995, China earned a shot at revenge in the final four years later. In a famous match at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, China and the U.S. battled to a 0-0 draw, each side surviving the golden goal extra time. In front of more than 90,000 spectators, Brandi Chastain clinched the penalty shootout for the U.S. and proceeded to rip her shirt off in an iconic celebration.
Prior to their loss in the final, China finished group play with a perfect record including this 7-0 romp over Ghana in Portland. Sun Wen, who converted her team’s final penalty in the shootout against the U.S., recorded a hat-trick against Ghana. She went on to win the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and shared the Golden Shoe with Brazilian player Sissi as the joint-top goalscorers.
Sweden 8-0 Japan on November 19, 1991
Just a few days into the very first World Cup, Sweden recorded a margin of victory that wouldn’t be bettered for 16 years.
After opening the tournament with a 3-2 loss against the U.S., the Swedish had six players get on the score sheet as they blew away Japan. They finished group play with a win over Brazil to book a place in the quarter-finals, where they eliminated hosts China. Pia Sundhage, who would go on to coach the U.S., Sweden and Brazil, scored the lone goal in that win.
Sweden lost their semi-final against Norway but did manage to beat Germany in the third-place play-off. They have reached the semi-finals in four of the eight World Cup tournaments all-time but have yet to lift the trophy.
Japan are the only team to appear on this top-ten list as both winners and losers. After suffering this historic loss in 1991, their program made great strides to record a six-goal win in 2003 and eventually won the entire tournament in 2011.
Norway 8–0 Nigeria on June 6, 1995
Norway’s 1995 team are the only squad to be featured twice on this list. Four days after this win over Nigeria, they nearly matched this scoreline with a 7-0 victory over Canada. Sandwiched between those two blowouts was a more modest 2-0 win over England.
Having been beaten by the U.S. in the inaugural World Cup final in 1991, Norway got some manner of revenge four years later as they edged the USWNT 1-0 in the semi-finals of this tournament. They went on to win the final with a 2-0 victory over Germany, finishing the tournament having conceded just a single goal. Norway have not returned to the title game since.
Five days after Germany’s blowout of Ivory Coast, Switzerland nearly matched their scoreline with this 10-1 win over Ecuador. The 2015 World Cup saw the tournament field expand from 16 to 24 teams, which may help explain the widening gap in the strength of teams.
Switzerland are a surprising entry to find on this list. Qualifying for the World Cup for the first time, they began their tournament with a 1-0 loss to defending champions Japan. After recording this historic win in Vancouver, they then finished group play with a 2-1 loss to Cameroon.
Despite finishing third in their group the Swiss advanced to the knockout stages, where they promptly lost 1-0 to hosts Canada in the round of 16. They finished the tournament with one victory and three losses in four matches, but thanks to the win over Ecuador, a +6 goal difference.
This result probably says more about Ecuador, who finished the World Cup with three losses from three matches and a -16 goal difference. They scored one goal in the tournament, which came from the penalty spot against Switzerland.
Germany 10-0 Ivory Coast on June 7, 2015
After winning back-to-back World Cup titles in 2003 and 2007, Germany suffered a letdown in 2011. Hosting the tournament for the first time, they fell in the quarter-finals to eventual champion Japan.
Four years later, they began their next World Cup campaign with a vengeance, firing 10 goals past Ivory Coast in Ottawa. At the time, the result gave Germany possession of the two biggest margins of victory in World Cup history.
Germany had six goalscorers in this match, with two players recording hat-tricks. One player, Melanie Behringer, scored in both this match and the 2007 match against Argentina.
Unlike 2007 though, this blowout did not propel Germany to a World Cup title, as they lost to eventual champions United States in the semi-final.
Germany 11-0 Argentina on September 10, 2007
Until the USWNT’s match against Thailand in 2019, the record for the biggest margin of victory in the World Cup was held by Germany for 12 years.
In the 2007 tournament’s very first match, the Germans fired 11 goals past Argentina in Shanghai. Birgit Prinz and Sandra Smisek each scored a hat-trick as Germany had five players get on the score sheet in this match.
Just as the Thailand blowout was for the U.S., this victory was the perfect start for Germany as they began their pursuit of a second straight title. They were remarkably held to a 0-0 draw by England in their next match, but won every ensuing contest, lifting the trophy without conceding a single goal in the tournament.
United States 13-0 Thailand on June 11, 2019
Having won their third World Cup title in 2015, the USWNT made the perfect start in their quest to repeat as champions four years later, beginning the tournament in Reims with this unprecedented blowout.
Alex Morgan scored five times, tying a record set by Michelle Akers in the first World Cup in 1991 for the most goals in a single match in the tournament’s history. Morgan was one of seven goalscorers, which stands alone as a tournament record.
The lopsided result prompted criticism of the USWNT afterwards, with many disapproving of their celebrations as they ran up the score with 10 goals in the second half. Former Canada international Kaylyn Kyle said she was “disgusted” and “embarrassed” by the Americans’ celebrations. None of the criticism came from the Thai players or coaches, however.
In defence of the celebrations, Morgan pointed out, “Every time we score a goal in a World Cup, I’ve dreamed of it since I was a little girl.” Four of the American goalscorers — Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Sam Mewis, and Mallory Swanson (then Mallory Pugh) — were playing in their first career World Cup match. “After the game, (Swanson) had tears in her eyes,” head coach Jill Ellis said. “As a coach, when you get caught up in it, you forget these are massive moments for the players.”
The U.S. would go on to win their fourth World Cup title in 2019. They scored 26 goals across their seven matches, with half of them coming in this contest alone.
The USWNT beat Thailand 13-0 because you don’t win World Cups by playing nice
(Photo: Getty Images)