New Zealand scores upsets over Norway in emotional Women’s World Cup opener
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Hannah Wilkinson scored to open the second half and New Zealand went on to beat Norway 1-0 on Thursday for its first-ever win at the Women’s World Cup, just hours after a shooting in downtown Auckland shocked the host nation.
A gunman stormed a high-rise construction site near Norway’s team hotel and opened fire, killing two people. The gunman was found dead after a police shootout.
There was increased security at Eden Park stadium, where 42,137 — a record crowd for a footbal match in New Zealand — were on hand to cheer on the home team, co-hosts of the tournament with Australia. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was among those at the game.
After an opening ceremony that honored New Zealand’s Indigenous heritage, there was a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting. Four people were wounded in the attack, including an police officer.
New Zealand got the nod to stage the first game, although co-host Australia’s match against Ireland in Sydney started about an hour later.
The Football Ferns had played in five previous World Cups, but hadn’t won a match.
Norway couldn’t finish its chances in the first half while the Ferns defended well. Ada Hegerberg’s attempt in the 37th minute was deftly defended by Rebekah Stott and the match was scoreless after the first half.
The first woman to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, Hegerberg has 43 goals in 77 international appearances. Currently playing professionally for Lyon, she has scored a record 59 goals in the Champions League.
Wilkinson scored in the opening moments of the second half. Jaqui Hand came up the right side and placed a perfect cross at Wilkinson’s feet for the goal. While the home crowd wildly celebrated, Norway goalkeeper Aurora Mikalson stood with her hands on her hips.
Norway won the World Cup in 1995. At the last tournament in 2019, the team fell to England in the quarterfinals. At the Women’s Euro in 2022, England routed the Norwegians 8-0. In the run-up to this game, winger Caroline Graham Hansen called the World Cup a chance to “start fresh.”
Tuva Hansen nearly scored for Norway in the 83rd but her shot hit the crossbar and caromed over the net.
The Ferns nearly doubled their lead in the 89th after a video review awarded them a penalty, but Ria Percival’s attempt hit the post.
Stoppage time stretched for more than 10 minutes before the whistle blew and New Zealand’s bench rushed the field in celebration. Ferns captain Ali Riley pounded her chest, then buried her head in her hands in happy tears.
Considered the favorites in Group A, the Norwegians went into the game 5-1-1 all-time against New Zealand, with the only loss coming in a 2019 exhibition match.
New Zealand has struggled in the run-up to the tournament on home soil, with just one win in its last 11 matches.
The two teams had met just once before at the World Cup: Norway beat the Ferns 4-0 in 1991.
Group A play continues Friday with Switzerland playing the Philippines in Dunedin. New Zealand’s next match is Tuesday against the Philippines in Wellington, while Norway plays Switzerland in Hamilton. The top two teams in the group will advance to the knockout stage.