By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Top-ranked Germany announced their arrival at the Women's World Cup on Sunday by handing out a near-record 10-0 thrashing to Ivory Coast that underlined the gulf between the heavyweights and emerging teams.
For the first time, the World Cup has been expanded to 24 sides from 16, which opens up the tournament to newcomers like Thailand and Ivory Coast.
Governing body FIFA says this reflects the increasing strength of women's soccer but the debutantes learned on Sunday just how far behind they still are.
Germany's victory in their Group B opener, which featured hat-tricks from Celia Sasic and Anja Mittag, was the second biggest win in tournament history.
Norway earlier overwhelmed Thailand 4-0 in a one-sided triumph that should have been much bigger.
Ivory Coast had keeper Dominique Thiamale to thank for avoiding an even heavier defeat.
"We had judged them to be a better team than they were today ... I'd never have thought we'd win 10-0," said German coach Silvia Neid.
The biggest defeat in Women's World Cup history came in 2007, when Germany beat Argentina 11-0.
Ivory Coast coach Clementine Toure said her team had been somewhat taken aback by just how good the Germans were.
"We want to be a competitive side and playing the finest team in the world is the best way for us to learn," she said.
A few hours before her players were humiliated, Norway had outmuscled Thailand, and only wasteful finishing prevented them from scoring many more.
"We'll play differently the next game ... we've learned quite a bit," said rueful Thai coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian.
Germany and Norway next play each other on June 11 in a game that will decide who wins the group.
"If you score 10 times I think you can be quite confident going into the next match," said Neid.
The World Cup is being played on artificial turf, which some players said was very dry despite being watered immediately before the game.
"It's not what we're used to, but we have to accept it," said German striker Mittag.
Other teams that could reach the July 5 final include the second-ranked United States, who start in Winnipeg on Monday against Australia, the number 10 side.
"If we can bring our 'A' game that day, I'm sure we're going to be a big rival to the U.S.", said Australian coach Alen Stajcic.
The teams are in Group D, the so-called 'Group of Death', which also features fifth-ranked Sweden and Nigeria.
There were only two games on Saturday and Sunday but starting on Monday, that will double. Japan, ranked fourth, open their Group C campaign against Switzerland in Vancouver while Ecuador meet Cameroon.
Hosts Canada kicked off the event on Saturday with a labored 1-0 win over China, courtesy of a late penalty call. The team looked particularly blunt in attack.
"They will need to find something more than what they showed here ... if they have larger ambitions," Globe and Mail soccer columnist Cathal Kelley wrote.
(Additional reporting by Steve Keating, editing by Gene Cherry)