The New Zealand women’s soccer team achieved a historic milestone in their first-ever World Cup victory. They defied the odds and secured a stunning 1-0 upset against the highly favored Norway in the opening match of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The match commenced with a moment of silence to honor the two individuals who lost their lives, and the five others who were injured, including a police officer, in a tragic shooting in Auckland early Thursday morning. The incident occurred just a few miles away from Eden Park, the venue for the opening match of the World Cup.
The gunman involved in the incident was killed. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins assured reporters that the authorities do not consider the shooting to pose a national security risk or a threat to the World Cup competition.
Hipkins stated, “This morning, the government has communicated with FIFA organizers, and they have confirmed that the tournament will continue as scheduled.”
The highly anticipated match between New Zealand (ranked No. 26 in the world) and Norway (ranked No. 12) in Group A took place, attracting a record-breaking attendance for any soccer game in New Zealand’s history, be it men’s or women’s. According to CNN Sports, more than 42,100 spectators were present to witness the exciting encounter.
The match remained level until the 48th minute when New Zealand’s Hannah Wilkinson scored from close range, following a cross from her teammate Jacqui Hand. Near the end of regulation time, New Zealand had a chance to extend their lead with a penalty kick, but Ria Percival’s shot hit the crossbar in the 90th minute, resulting in a missed opportunity.
On Thursday, in another match, co-host Australia will face off against Ireland in Sydney for the opening game of Group B.
Over the next month, a total of 32 teams will participate in over 60 matches across 10 venues in Australia and New Zealand. Despite their differences in football background, Australia has enjoyed greater international success in the sport, while New Zealand is recognized as a prominent rugby nation. Notably, until Thursday, the New Zealand women’s team had never secured a victory in the World Cup, be it in the men’s or women’s category.
The U.S. Women’s National Team, currently holding the top rank, enters this year’s tournament as the two-time defending champions, making them the favorites to clinch the title once more. Nine players from the 2019 championship-winning squad, such as Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Julie Ertz, have returned this year to strengthen the team’s chances of success.
This weekend, the U.S. Women’s National Team will play their opening match in New Zealand against Vietnam. The U.S. squad is widely considered the strong frontrunner for this game.