Friday, July 19, 2024

Hosts New Zealand stun Norway in 2023 Women’s World Cup opener

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Hosts New Zealand have kicked off their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign with a huge shocking win over Norway in Group A.

Hannah Wilkinson was the hero on the night, scoring the only goal of the game to help the Football Ferns to a first-ever win at any edition of the tournament.

At the sixth time of asking, New Zealand have recorded a long-awaited win at a Women’s World Cup tournament, courtesy of Wilkinson’s second-half strike.

A tentative opening half saw chances fall few and far between the two nations, with Norway creating more in spite of New Zealand’s relentless press.

Frida Maanum was on the end of their first clear-cut opportunity, but her effort sailed over the bar.

Caroline Graham Hansen demonstrated her pace on the wing, picking up the ball in her own half and progressing to the byline – holding off two defenders – before laying it off to Ada Hegerberg.

The striker looked to cushion the ball into the bottom corner but for a last-ditch challenge from Rebekah Stott.

The Football Ferns would find the breakthrough just minutes into the second period.

Just five passes from goalkeeper to striker were needed, with Wilkinson finishing emphatically beyond Aurora Mikalsen between the sticks.

Hege Riise’s side had their chances to find a way back in, with second-half substitute Tuva Hansen’s long-range effort.

But her goal-bound shot forced a sublime save from Victoria Esson in the New Zealand goal, pushing it onto the crossbar with a finger-tip stop.

The co-hosts had the chance to seal the win late on, but Ria Percival’s spot-kick – that was awarded following a handball by Hansen in the box – ricocheted off the crossbar.

After nine minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle was met with a roar from the record crowd at Eden Park as the Ferns earned a monumental win.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is its ninth edition and is being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The month-long tournament is expected to run from July 20 to Aug. 20. (NAN)

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