Outscored 18-1, Thailand is still alive for a berth in the World Cup knockout round


The Jets beat the Colts. Team USA produced a miracle against the Soviets. Villanova shocked Georgetown (so did Florida Gulf Coast, and VCU, and Ohio). Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson.

Those were all great upsets, fondly recalled even decades later, and they could be joined Thursday by Thailand’s women’s soccer team, which has a chance to advance to the World Cup’s knockout stage even though it’s been outscored 18-1 in its first two group-stage games.

Oh, it’s still the longest of shots for a team that simply was outclassed by world powers the United States and Sweden. But if Cameroon and New Zealand draw in a match that starts three hours earlier Thursday and then Thailand defeats similarly winless Chile, Thailand will be through to the round of 16 as the last of the four third-place teams to qualify out of the group stage.

Based on the Vegas odds, the chances of both a Cameroon-New Zealand draw and a Thailand win happening is somewhere in the vicinity of 33 to 1, an implied possibility of less than 3 percent. But yes, we’re saying there’s a chance.

Though Thailand could improve upon its minus-17 goal differential against Chile on Thursday, it seems likely that — should the team advance — it would shatter the record for the most negatively yawning goal differential of any team to make it to the Women’s World Cup knockout round. The previous mark was set by Taiwan in the inaugural 1991 event, when it advanced out of the group stage even though it had been outscored by six goals over three games. Japan (minus-2, 1995), Nigeria (minus-3, 1999) and China (minus-1, 2007) also have broken through despite getting outscored in the aggregate by their opponents in the group stage.

For what it’s worth, the team with the worst goal differential to advance out of the group stage in modern stagings of the men’s World Cup was Uruguay in 1986 (minus-5).

Chile held the United States to only three goals on Sunday — 10 less than the Americans’ output in a record-shattering, hot-take-generating 13-0 win over Thailand on June 11 — but it also has yet to score a goal. The same can’t be said of the Thais, whose goal against Sweden produced one of the more lasting images of this World Cup.

The woman in white on the sideline shown tearfully hugging Thailand Coach Nuengruethai Sathongwien is Nualphan Lamsam, the team’s general manager and — as chief executive of an insurance company and heiress to a banking fortune — one of its chief financial benefactors. In a team photo taken after the game, she and her players are smiling despite another blowout loss, this one by a score of 5-1.

“Winning or losing is not as important as having the heart and spirit back from a feisty performance,” she wrote, as translated by the New York Times.

Read more:

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Perspective: The U.S. women’s national team’s joy is only rivaled by the exuberance of its fans

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