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Co-host New Zealand stuns Norway to open the Women's World Cup

New Zealand's forward Hannah Wilkinson celebrates after her team won the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup Group A football match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park in Auckland on July 20, 2023.
MARTY MELVILLE
/
AFP via Getty Images
New Zealand's forward Hannah Wilkinson celebrates after her team won the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup Group A football match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park in Auckland on July 20, 2023.

In the first win ever for a New Zealand national soccer team at a World Cup competition, the women's team upset heavily favored Norway with a 1-0 win to open the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

The game began after a moment of silence was held before the opening whistle to remember the two people who died and five others injured, including a police officer, in a shooting in Auckland early Thursday morning before just miles away from Eden Park, the venue for the first match of the World Cup.

The gunman was killed in the incident and New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters that authorities do not see the shooting as a national security risk, or threat to the World Cup competition.

"The government has spoken to FIFA organizers this morning and the tournament will proceed as planned," Hipkins said.

And, indeed, it did with New Zealand, ranked No. 26 in the world, taking on No. 12-ranked Norway in a Group A match, which set a record for attendance for any soccer match in New Zealand history, men's or women's with more than 42,100 people in attendance, CNN Sports reported.

The game was a deadlock until a goal in the 48th minute at close range by New Zealand's Hannah Wilkinson, who scored on a cross from teammate Jacqui Hand. A penalty kick by New Zealand near the end of regulation time would have put the Ferns up another goal, but Ria Percival missed when her shot hit the crossbar in the 90th minute.

Later Thursday, co-host Australia will take on Ireland in Sydney for Group B's first match.

Thirty-two teams will compete over the next month in over 60 matches across 10 venues in Australia and New Zealand, two very different countries when it comes to football. While Australia has had more international success with the sport, New Zealand is known more as a rugby nation and until Thursday had never won a game in the World Cup — men's or women.

The U.S. Women's National Team is ranked No. 1 and arrives at this year as the tournament's two-time defending champion, favored to win again. The U.S. has nine players returning this year who were also on the 2019 champion team, including Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz.

The Americans' first game is this weekend in New Zealand against Vietnam, with the U.S. seen as a heavy favorite.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.