World Cup NOW: Was Sophia Smith the best player in the opening round?

Sophia Smith had a spectacular 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup debut in the U.S. women’s national team‘s 3-0 win over Vietnam on Friday.

Following her performance, the 22-year-old received high praise and was quickly referred to as a possible “breakout” star for this year’s tournament.

With the second round of the group stage underway, the “World Cup NOW” crew – Jimmy Conrad, Leslie Osborne, Karina LeBlanc and Kathryn Gill – discussed their choice for the best player in the opening round, and it’s no surprise that Smith is topping a few lists.

Best Players from Matchday One

Jimmy Conrad, Leslie Osborne, Kate Gill and Karina LeBlanc discussed their best players from the opening round of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Osborne: “Sophia Smith … this is a player we know the ceiling is incredibly high. Two goals and an assist. She is incredibly fast on the ball. She can do so many things. She can score in a variety of ways, which she showed. I love the goal with her and Alex Morgan. She’s incredibly dangerous, and even if you know what she’s doing, she can do it more, and this player is going to take this team far in the tournament. She’s special.”

LeBlanc: “I get the blessing of seeing Sophia Smith every single day, and this World Cup, she has wanted to show the world. The world was saying, ‘Oh, is this the breakout star?’ In the NWSL, we’d see her day-in and day-out. She can take five or six players on. She can score goals from the shot. She can score goals in so many different ways … she’s a rising star … this is the tournament. She wants to make her mark on the world, and I think she will do exactly that. First game, variety of goals scored – I think we’ll just see more of that. Once the game opens up against the Netherlands, I think we’ll also see a different variety of Sophia Smith going at the players with more space. So, I’m going to say she’s just getting in form, so watch out world.”

Conrad: “I’m going to go with Ary Borges from Brazil. Three goals and one assist, and it was a cheeky back heel for an assist. In her World Cup debut, that is ridiculous. She scored some great goals, and I think what made me a little bit scared – if the U.S. are going to play them – is how many different players they have that can hurt us … She plays for Racing Louisville in the NWSL. She’s got one goal in 12 games … I know she plays a little bit deeper for her club, but the fact that she shows up in her first World Cup game and scores three is pretty ridiculous. So, she’s going to get my vote, even though Sophia Smith is very, very close.”

Gill:Alexandra Popp for me. I know Germany didn’t really get out of third gear against Morocco, but I thought her runs were great; her timing in the box was great. She really led that team and she was really aggressive … She got two goals in the game as well. I notice she’s been clouded by injuries, so there’s been tournaments where she started, and she hasn’t been able to make it all the way through. So, I think if she can stay fit through this tournament, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.” 

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