Hannah Wilkinson scored a second-half winner to send underdogs New Zealand to a 1-0 win over Norway at Eden Park on Thursday, kicking off their Women’s World Cup campaign at home with an extraordinary upset over the former champions.
It is their first-ever World Cup win in front of the biggest crowd that ever watched a football match in New Zealand. Before now, they had had a 15-match World Cup run without a win. Even in the countdown to the Women’s World Cup, they lost 2-0 to Nigeria’s Super Falcons in a friendly match last April.
The Football Ferns had never won a World Cup match before and Wilkinson’s goal from close range early in the second half, off a laser-like cross from Jacqui Hand, sent the home fans into roars of delight.
The win put New Zealand on the right track toward their goal of getting out of the opening stage of the tournament, as they face debutants the Philippines on Tuesday in a match that had widely been seen as their best chance of winning in Group A.
Co-hosts Australia were set to open their World Cup campaign later on Thursday in Sydney for the first co-hosted Women’s World Cup and the first in the southern hemisphere.