New Zealand edge past Norway in thrilling FIFA Women’s World Cup opener

New Zealand edge past Norway in thrilling FIFA Womens World Cup opener.- Twitter@FIFAWWC
New Zealand edge past Norway in thrilling FIFA Women’s World Cup opener.- Twitter@FIFAWWC

In a mesmerising start to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, co-hosts New Zealand delivered a stunning performance against Norway, securing their first-ever win on the global stage. The match, held at Auckland’s Eden Park, was filled with unforgettable moments as the Football Ferns achieved a major upset, igniting the spirits of the 42,137 ecstatic fans in attendance – a record-breaking football match crowd in New Zealand.

The evening witnessed a poignant tribute, with a minute’s silence before kick-off, honouring the victims of a tragic shooting incident in Auckland earlier that day. Despite the sombre beginning, the anticipation and excitement among spectators were palpable as New Zealand took to the field, having eagerly awaited this moment since being named co-hosts alongside Australia in 2020.

New Zealand’s Hannah Wilkinson etched her name into the history books, sweeping home Jacqui Hand’s cross in the 48th minute to break the deadlock. The euphoria in the stadium knew no bounds as the home crowd celebrated their team’s long-awaited victory.

Norway, the former world champions in 1995, tried to stage a comeback after Wilkinson’s goal but missed a crucial opportunity when Arsenal’s Frida Maanum poked the ball wide. New Zealand’s resilience was on full display as they fiercely contested their opponents throughout the game.

The match featured emotional scenes during the national anthems, with players Ria Percival and Ali Riley visibly moved as they prepared to represent their country in their fifth World Cup appearance.

New Zealand’s tenacity and determination to secure their maiden World Cup victory paid off, despite Norway’s efforts to equalise. The match ended with an 89th-minute missed penalty by Ria Percival, following a handball by Tuva Hansen, but the home fans continued to celebrate the historic achievement.

For Norway, the loss was a bitter disappointment, and their manager, Hege Riise, acknowledged the team’s lacklustre performance. The Norwegian squad now faces the challenge of regrouping for their upcoming match against Switzerland in Hamilton.

The opening game showcased the soaring popularity of women’s football, with FIFA predicting an audience of two billion people globally. New Zealand’s jubilant triumph in front of a passionate home crowd set the tone for an exhilarating Women’s World Cup, filled with excitement, drama, and unforgettable moments. As the tournament unfolds, fans around the world eagerly anticipate witnessing the best female footballers competing at the highest level, vying for glory on the grandest stage of international women’s football.


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