Debut Down Under

U.S. Women's National Team Defender Naomi Girma Reflects on World Cup Debut Against Vietnam

When the U.S. Women’s National Team topped Vietnam 3-0 on July 22 at Eden Park, it marked not only the official start of the USA’s campaign at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup but also the World Cup debut for eight players on the U.S. roster.

Savannah DeMelo, Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Sofia Huerta, Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Andi Sullivan and Alyssa Thompson all saw action in the USA’s opening win in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau, marking their first appearance on the sport’s biggest stage.

Girma, one of four players on this roster born after the historic 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, played the full 90 minutes on defense in the shutout victory, masking any  anxiety with her steady play and distribution from the back.

“I definitely felt the nerves before the game, but once the whistle blew and we were in it, I did feel that sense of calmness and that sense of confidence,” said Girma, who made her international debut in April of 2022. “I think that also comes from the talk from Julie [Ertz], Crystal [Dunn] and Alyssa [Naeher] all around me, the constant communication. I think that helps me zone in and helps me stay focused.”

Girma, who completed 79 of her 88 pass attempts (93% pass completion) and had six ball recoveries against Vietnam, also credited Alex Morgan, USWNT co-captain and her club teammate at San Diego Wave FC, for her help in preparing for the moment.

“Alex has been great in giving advice and preparing me for what to expect heading into the World Cup,” said Girma. “A lot of our veteran players have been really good at that. They’ve just been telling us to enjoy the moment and soak it in. I think in that first game, that was really big – just staying calm and knowing that it’s a normal game and trusting ourselves to go out and get the job done.”

The opening of the World Cup was perhaps made even more special – and certainly more fashionable – as the U.S. players arrived to Eden Park wearing custom suits produced by Nike in collaboration with designer Martine Rose.

“Look good, feel good, play good,” noted Girma. “It was great.”

A great and memorable start to the tournament indeed.