SYDNEY – Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand opened their ninth Women’s World Cup with a win and record crowds yesterday after a shooting near the Norwegian team’s hotel in Auckland left three dead and six injured.
After an opening ceremony celebrating traditional Māori culture including the famous Haka war dance, a stunning goal from Hannah Wilkinson at Eden Park marked the difference in a 1-0 win over Norway. This was New Zealand’s first World Cup win.
The crowd of 42,137 spectators beat the host nation’s previous record at an international football match.
A statement from FIFA said it was supporting the teams in the immediate vicinity of the shooting.
The Australian Matildas kicked off their campaign with a shock 1-0 victory over Ireland in front of a crowd of 75,784 at Stadium Australia in Sydney – a record attendance for a women’s football match in the country.
They were dealt a blow before kick-off, however, when in-form striker Sam Kerr, arguably the face of the tournament, was ruled out of the first two games with a calf injury.
The Matildas released a video this week criticizing the “disrespect” for the women’s game that forced teams to play on artificial courts at the 2015 tournament and prize money still lagging behind for the men’s World Cup.
Australia worked at first but a second half penalty from Steve Catley got them off to a solid start with a 1-0 victory over Ireland in the second set.
“It’s unbelievable to win,” Catley told reporters. “I think this is the longest preparation period for a match in my entire life.” “Losing a player like Sam, possibly the best player in the world and she’s such a character, we obviously felt sad. We had to use her spirit…to help us move forward. She’s so important, she’s our spiritual leader.”