The highly anticipated Women’s World Cup finally got underway yesterday morning (BST),
we saw co hosts New Zealand and Australia both get their tournament off to a great start,
with both teams recording a 1-0 victory in front of record breaking crowds.
Here is the round up…
New Zealand vs Norway
It was a memorable and historic night in Auckland, the Football Ferns played in front of a massive home crowd of 42,137 at Eden Park and they produced a huge upset as they beat Norway 1-0. This was the country’s first ever win on the global stage in both senior men’s and women’s football.
In a game where Norway were the clear favourites due to the talent in their squad, the Ferns went toe to toe with them, they were quick out the blocks and piled the pressure on a Norway defence that looked off the pace and nervous.
Norway had numerous chances/half chances to score throughout the first half through Hegerberg and Maanum, but it was New Zealand who were just edging the contest overall and it was the Ferns who made Norway pay in the 48th minute. Hannah Wilkinson swept home after some intricate play from the back found the run of Jacqui Hand who put the ball on a plate for the striker, which sparked scenes of pure joy and excitement in the stands.
After the goal, Norway tried to get themselves back into the game and began piling on the
pressure, it took a world class save from Ferns keeper Victoria Essen to deny Tuva Hansen a
goal, as Essen sensationally tipped the ball onto the bar. Moments later Hansen then gifted New Zealand the chance to seal the victory as her handball in the box gave the Ferns a penalty, Ria Percival stepped up from 12-yards but she missed.
With ten minutes of stoppage time added on at the end, the penalty miss set up a nerve racking time for the New Zealand fans, subs and coaches. But much to Percival’s relief the hosts held on to secure a historic victory. Meanwhile the defeat leaves Norway and new coach Hege Riise with a lot of questions and things to work on, but with games against Switzerland and the Philippines to come (two sides lower ranked than them) they still have a good chance of advancing to the
knockout stages of the tournament.
Australia vs Ireland
Australia got their tournament off to the perfect start after securing a 1-0 victory over tournament debutants Ireland in front of a record crowd of 75,784. Stephanie Catley's penalty early in the second half was just enough for the Matilda’s despite losing Captain Sam Kerr due to injury a day earlier. The win is Australia's first opening match win in the World Cup since 2007.
On their World Cup debut, the Republic of Ireland proved to be a tough opposition for Australia, they were organised and strong defensively. Early on a good battle was brewing between Hayley Raso and Katie McCabe. During a goalless first half Australia kept playing the long ball forward.
but without Sam Kerr they didn’t have anyone to get on the end of them, so Louise Quinn was tidying up at the back for Ireland with ease. The first major scoring chance fell to Real Madrid winger Hayley Raso, her header looked set to find the bottom corner but she put it wide. The main tactic for the girls in green was to defend well and try to catch the Aussies on the counter, but for a side that hasn’t scored in four of their last five games it didn’t work very well.
A pretty lacklustre first half was soon in the past, the Matilda’s made a quick start after the break. Raso was running in on goal to get on the end of a cross from Kyra Cross, but she was shoved over by Marissa Sheva (Ireland) for a clear penalty. Catley stepped up for Australia and she fired the ball into the top corner for her third international goal. Irelands best chances to equalise came through set pieces, Mackenzie Arnold was regularly tested from corners, but the Aussie keeper played exceptionally well and remained fully focused throughout.
Arnold brilliantly denied Arsenal’s Katie McCabe in the final few seconds of the match
to secure the three points and help her side secure their seventh clean sheet in nine games.
Ireland will take a lot of positives from the game, apart from gifting the Aussies a penalty, they defended superbly and they did have a few chances to level the game. But it gets no easier for them as they face Canada next.