New Zealand’s leading FIFA Women’s World Cup goalscorer is revelling at the chance to make more history on the global stage in her own backyard.
Hannah Wilkinson was a 19-year-old substitute when she scored a 94th-minute equaliser to seal a 2-2 draw against Mexico at Germany 2011.
It helped New Zealand end their campaign on a high with their first Women’s World Cup point.
Reflecting on that goal, Wilkinson says it remains one of the highlights of her 13-year international career.
“Being an up-and-coming young forward, coming off the bench, I think, was really special, and I was just so stoked that I could do that for my country,” she said.
To steal a line from iconic New Zealand band Split Enz, history never repeats. However, four years after her heroics in Sinsheim, Wilkinson repeated the dose at Canada 2015 with an equaliser to seal a 2-2 draw against China PR.
In her time with the Football Ferns, the team has picked up its first three points at a Women’s World Cup through three draws. While that has been cause for celebration in the past, the co-hosts are setting their sights higher: a maiden win in front of family, friends and fans.
“We’re not just aiming to get points, we’re aiming to win things,” said Wilkinson. “So I’m really excited and hopefully I can contribute to some real success out there.
“We’ve got a really special opportunity to make history and progress from our group, and it’s going to be a challenge. But it’s going to be a really exciting one.”
With higher ambitions come higher levels of preparation. New Zealand were put through their paces in a nine-week training camp before they open the tournament against Norway at Eden Park on July 20.
Wilkinson says they understand the importance of a lengthy training camp for a side that has players traditionally scattered throughout the globe.
The chance to learn a lot about each other, to build time together on the field and to develop sustainably under coach Jitka Klimková was embraced by the team.
Regardless of the results over the course of the tournament, the opportunity to play a Women’s World Cup opening match no further than two-and-a-half-hours from her home town of Whangarei means the world to Wilkinson.
“We’re typically always playing away from New Zealand and away from Australia – away from that side of the world,” she said.
“So to be able to come home and bring football home for once is really, really special. And to play in front of our friends and family that helped us get to where we are now is really, really so remarkable.”
Acknowledgement: Story supplied by FIFA.