Ferns display newfound derring-do in triumphant start to FIFA Women’s World Cup

New Zealand played with a sense of confidence and daring to win their opening game against former champions Norway at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Playing before an all-time 42,137 record crowd for a match — male or female — in New Zealand, the Football Ferns deservedly won 1-0, thanks to a Hannah Wilkinson goal soon after half-time.

Main photo: Hannah Wilkinson turns to the crowd after scoring the winner for New Zealand.

The Eden Park crowd went wild, setting alight the tournament for New Zealanders and almost ensuring there’ll be a sold-out crowd for Tuesday’s second group game, against the Philippines in Wellington.

After a long string of international friendlies with poor results, this was a different New Zealand side, playing with a sense of derring-do and with a tactical nous that put the Norwegians on the back foot.

The Ferns set up with almost the same line-up that beat Vietnam in the warm-up game in Napier but from the start, they played smart, mixing short ball interplays with long passes to turn around their opponents.

Players switched positions, with midfielders swapping flanks, and with strikers Wilkinson and Jacqui Hand taking it in turns to fall deep or push high.

It kept the Norwegians guessing and they never had chance to settle; they had no choice but to become reactive to the Ferns.

By half-time, it was obvious the Ferns were in with a shot of causing the first boilover at the tournament. They left the pitch to a standing ovation from an expectant crowd.

When they returned, Wilkinson broke the deadlock in the 48th minute, timing her run into the Norwegian penalty area perfectly to convert Hand’s cross for her 29th international goal, and third at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The move was a rehearsed set play, starting with a Katie Bowen goalkick that moved the ball quickly down the flank and when it was finished by Wilkinson, the stadium went crazy, as the Ferns players celebrated with their subs and staff.

New Zealand’s Hannah Wilkinson enjoys the moment … Photo: Andrew Cornaga / Phototek.

In the 63rd minute, New Zealand forward Indiah-Paige Riley forced Auroroa Mikalsen into a save with a well-taken shot that was heading for the top left corner.

Midfielder Ria Percival blasted a shot wide, when set up by Wilkinson.

Norway’s best chance came in the 81st minute when Tuva Hansen shot from the edge of the penalty area forcing a fingertip save from Vic Esson who turned it onto the crossbar.

In the final minute of play, New Zealand were awarded a penalty after a VAR review judged Hansen had handled the ball.

Percival smashed the spot kick against the framework of the goal, increasing the nervous tension for those on and off the pitch.

The officials indicated there would be nine minutes of added time, but with substitutions, the stoppage period extended to 11 painfully long minutes.

There was still time for coach Jitka Klimková to demonstrate New Zealand’s new, bold tactical approach.

Instead of taking off a forward and bringing on an another defender, she brought on speedster Paige Satchell up front.

It was a blatant challenge to the Norwegians — if you dare to push everyone forward, we’ll make you pay.

This was so different from the timid approach of the Ferns in many of the lead-up matches.

The perfect start to the tournament …

The final whistle and the New Zealand players rush to share their joy with the record crowd. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Player of the Match

Hannah Wilkinson was awarded the Player of the Match.

READ MORE: World Cup goalscorer Hannah Wilkinson: ‘This is the greatest day of my life’ >>>>

Match highlights

Match analysis

[Full-time stats
(New Zealand / Norway)

Shots: 12 / 13
Shots on target: 2 / 2
Possession: 49% / 51%
Passes: 354 / 354
Pass accuracy: 64%  / 59%
Fouls committed: 5 / 15
Offsides: 3 / 2
Corners: 8 / 2


Game played on Thursday July 20, 2023
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Attendance: 42,137

New Zealand 1 (Hannah Wilkinson 48′)
Norway 0

Group standings


New Zealand’s starting line-up. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

New Zealand

Vic Esson, Ali Riley (captain) Katie Bowen. Rebekah Stott (Claudia Bunge 70’), CJ Bott, Betsy Hassett, Malia Steinmetz, Ria Percival, Jacqui Hand (Gabi Rennie 90+4′), Hannah Wilkinson (Paige Satchell 86’), Indiah-Paige Riley.

Subs not used: Erin Nayler, Anna Leat, Daisy Cleverley, Michaela Foster, Grace Jale, Liz Anton, Annalie Longo, Olivia Chance, Milly Clegg.


Aurora Mikalsen, Tuva Hansen, Maren Mjelde (captain), Ingrid Syrstad Engen, Caroline Graham Hansen, Guro Reiten, Thea Bjelde (Ania Sonstevold 90+3′),  Ada Hegerberg, Mathilde Harviken, Julie Blakstad (Emilie Haavi 56′), Frida Maanum (Vilde Bøe Risa 74′).

Match officials

Referee: Yoshimi Yamashita (Japan)
Assistant referees: Makoto Bozono (Japan), Naom Teshirogi (Japan)
Fourth official: Ivana Martincic (Croatia)
Video assistant referee: Tatiana Guzman (Nicuragua)
Assistant VAR: Carol Anne Chenard (Canada)
Offside VAR: Chantal Boudreau (Canada)

Jitka Klmková enjoys the moment as the final whistle sounds at Eden Park.

Coach’s reaction

After the match, Ferns coach Jitka Klimková said:

“I still have goosebumps. I still have emotions in me.

“We waited for this moment for such a long, long time, and having this opportunity at home, beating Norway … hearing our fans being behind us, that’s just (an) unforgettable moment for me as a coach.

“And of course for all the players that been involved and all the people that are actually supporting our team. So incredible. It’s an incredible feeling.

The record attendance is announced to the crowd at Eden Park. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

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