Ferns stun Norway in Women’s World Cup opener

New Zealand Women 1 Norway Women 0 – Eden Park, AucklandFIFA Women’s World Cup – Report

New Zealand Women 1-0 Norway Women  

Joint hosts New Zealand kicked off the 2023 Women’s World Cup with a shock 1-0 victory over Norway with Hannah Wilkinson’s goal taking New Zealand through to the first-ever win in either a Women’s or Men’s World Cup finals tournament, much to the delight of the ecstatic crowd of 42,137 at Eden Park, Auckland – a record for a football match in New Zealand.

Prior to the match, there was a minute’s silence observed before kick-off for the victims of the deadly shooting in Auckland earlier on Thursday.

The ‘Football Ferns’ started positively, creating half-chances for Malia Steinmetz and Indiah-Paige Riley but despite dominating the first half, they were unable to break down the Norwegian defence until the forty-eighth minute when Jacqui Hand broke rapidly down the right flank before crossing for Wilkinson to sweep the ball home past Aurora Mikalsen and spark wild scenes of celebration from the home fans.

The Norwegians, World Cup winners in 1995, had a great chance to equalise just after the goal only for Arsenal’s Frida Maanum to stab the ball wide of the post.

With New Zealand visibly growing in confidence following the goal, they almost doubled their lead when Ali Riley’s left-footed rocket forced a diving Mikalsen to tip the ball wide of the post before the ever-dangerous Wilkinson set up a chance for Ria Percival to drill just wide from fifteen yards out.

Norway were under par for the majority of the contest but went close late on when Victoria Esson tipped Tuva Hansen’s long-range effort onto the bar before the Football Ferns were awarded a penalty in the eighty-ninth minute after Tuva Hansen was penalised for a handball in the area – a decision confirmed by VAR – only for Percival’s spot-kick to rebound back off the crossbar.

The home side had to endure ten heart-stopping minutes of stoppage time but in the end, they were able to hang on with relative ease to close out the win – their first in sixteen matches at Women’s World Cups.

New Zealand manager Jitka Klimkova spoke to the press following the game – 

“I still have goosebumps. I still have emotions in me. We waited for this moment for such a long, long time and having this opportunity at home.

“Beating Norway, strong opposition, hearing our fans being behind us. That’s just an unforgettable moment for me as a coach and – of course – for all the players that I’ve been involved, and all the people that are actually supporting our team. So an incredible, incredible feeling.

“I really believe this World Cup will wake up a lot of passion in football, and one of our goals and our priorities as a team [is] we want to keep inspiring.

“We want to keep inspiring with those performances like today, like tonight. And yeah, having even the win in our pocket is some bonus that came with a really good performance. And this is just the beginning.”

New Zealand next face the Philippines at the Wellington Regional Stadium (6.30am BST) on Tuesday, July 25, whilst Norway play Switzerland (09.00am BST) at the FGM Stadium Waikato – also on the same day. 

New Zealand Women: Hand, Wilkinson, Esson, Bott, Stott (Bunge 70′) Bowen, Riley, Riley, Percival, Steinmetz, Hassett, Hand (Rennie 90+4′) Wilkinson (Satchell 86′) Subs not used: Nayler, Foster, Cleverley, Longo, Chance, Jale, Anton, Clegg, Leat

Norway Women: Mikalsen, Bjelde (Sønstevold 90+3′) Mjelde, Harviken, Hansen, Engen Maanum (Bøe Risa 74′) Reiten, Graham Hansen, Hegerberg, Blakstad (Haavi 56′) Subs not used: Fiskerstrand, Hørte, Bergsvand, Sævik, Pettersen, Eikeland, Bratberg Lund, Jøsendal, Haug.

Referee: Yoshimi Yamashita

Assistant Referees: Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi

Fourth Official: Ivana Martinčić 

Video Assistant Referee: Tatiana Guzmán 

Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Carol Anne Chenard 

Offside Video Assistant Referee: Chantal Boudreau 

Attendance: 42,137