The 2023 FIFA Female World Cup got underway on Thursday in Auckland, New Zealand to a brilliant start with some records already recorded.
The opening match between host New Zealand and Norway was the first FIFA World Cup senior match, male or female, ever to take place in the Oceania continent.
And the event was also with historic excitement in nearby Australia when the co-host took to the field to play the Republic of Ireland.
For the first match in Eden Park, Auckland, the crowd could not hide its excitement for the event, despite a fatal shooting nearby that shook and shocked the country.
The city’s streets were in a celebratory mood as flags of the 32 participating countries adorned houses surrounding the national stadium.
In Auckland, a record crowd of 42,137 was recorded as New Zealand went on to record its first win in a FIFA World Cup match.
The delighted home fans were fully behind their team from the opening festivities to the beginning of the match down to its end.
The frenzy fans were rewarded in the 48th minute of the match with a move started by their goalkeeper Victoria Esson, whose goal kick eventually found Jacqui Hand down the right wing, who beat her marker and sent a perfect pass across the face of the goal to striker Hannah Wilkinson. Wilkinson’s shot flew past Norwegian keeper Aurora Mikalsen into the net for the winner and only goal of the match. This was enough to earn New Zealand a historic win. New Zealand’s Ria Percival misses a penalty kick in the 90th minute for what would have made the celebration sweeter for the hosts.
The Football Ferns (as New Zealand’s female team is called) had been in five Women’s World Cup competitions but had never won a match. Their 15-game loss streak had been the longest in Women’s World Cup history.
And in nearby Sydney Stadium, co-host Australia also started its World Cup campaign in front of a record crowd of about 76,000 fans when its team, the Matildas (Australia female team) beat Ireland 1-0 in a Group B match.
Australia, who is ranked 10th in FIFA’s rankings and playing without captain and talisman Sam Kerr, who will miss the first two matches of the tournament as a result of a calf injury during training a day earlier, was put under some pressure by debutant, Ireland for most of the match.
Australia goalie Mackenzie Arnold was put into action many times to help the host keep a clean slate in the match.
In the early minutes of the second half of the match, a penalty was awarded when Ireland’s Marissa Sheva was judged to have fouled her opponent inside the box. The deadlock was broken in the 51st minute when defender Steph Catley converted the resultant penalty kick for the hosts.