Hannah Wilkinson’s Goal Secures Historic 1-0 Victory for New Zealand in Women’s World Cup Opener
In a momentous opening game of the Women’s World Cup, co-hosts New Zealand celebrated their first-ever victory at the prestigious tournament with a thrilling 1-0 win over Norway. The match took place on Thursday in Auckland, and an astounding crowd of over 42,000 spectators witnessed history in the making, marking the largest turnout in New Zealand’s football history. The jubilant atmosphere contrasted with the somber backdrop of a tragic shooting incident in the downtown area, close to where several World Cup teams, including Norway, were residing. The incident resulted in the loss of two lives, including the gunman.
Notably, the country’s Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino attended the match at Eden Park, where a moment of silence paid tribute to the victims of the tragic event.
Facing the challenge of co-hosting the first 32-team Women’s World Cup with Australia, the Football Ferns displayed great determination throughout the game. They secured a well-deserved victory, courtesy of an early second-half goal by Hannah Wilkinson.
Prior to this historic win, New Zealand had faced 15 previous matches in five different World Cup appearances without tasting victory. Ending this unfortunate record was their primary objective, and they successfully achieved it against the former World Cup champions, Norway. The ecstatic near sell-out crowd of 42,137 fans set a new national attendance record for any football match, be it men’s or women’s, in the country.
Despite a cold, wet, and windy evening, New Zealand dominated the first half without truly threatening Norway’s goalkeeper, Aurora Mikalsen. However, three minutes into the second half, Jacqui Hand’s precise delivery from the right found Hannah Wilkinson, who confidently slotted the ball into the net.
The game intensified as Norway, the 1995 world champions, pressed for an equalizer. Still, Frida Maanum squandered a promising opportunity, and New Zealand’s goalkeeper Victoria Esson denied Tuva Hansen’s long-range strike by tipping it onto the crossbar.
Later in the match, a VAR check identified a handball by Tuva Hansen in the penalty area, providing New Zealand with a late opportunity to extend their lead. Unfortunately for the Football Ferns, Ria Percival’s 90th-minute penalty attempt hit the bar, denying them a more substantial margin of victory.
Following this historic win, New Zealand’s sights are now set on qualifying for the knockout stages from Group A, where they will face Switzerland and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Norway will be seeking to regroup after their disappointing start to the tournament, having been woken early by the distressing incident near their hotel.
New Zealand’s triumphant performance and the incredible support from the home crowd set the tone for what promises to be an exciting and memorable Women’s World Cup.
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