JiLiHOT Daily On July 21st, the 2023 New Zealand-Australia Women’s Football World Cup kicked off with both co-hosts taking the lead. New Zealand, not favored before the match, faced Norway, a strong team in the Nordic region. Surprisingly, New Zealand scored a crucial goal in the second half and won 1-0, marking their first-ever victory in the World Cup group stage in 32 years. This miracle performance by New Zealand added excitement to this year’s Women’s World Cup.
On the other hand, Australia, the other host country, faced Ireland, with a record 75,784 spectators attending the match, setting a new record for attendance in Australian women’s football events. The captain, Caitlin, capitalized on a penalty kick opportunity, leading Australia to a 1-0 victory over Ireland. Both host countries started their campaign with a victory, boosting the atmosphere of the World Cup.
In the opening match, New Zealand faced the Nordic powerhouse, Norway. New Zealand women’s football had never won a match in the World Cup group stage, with only 3 draws and 12 losses in their previous 15 matches. On the other hand, although Norway’s women’s team suffered an 8-0 defeat against England in the UEFA Women’s European Championship last year, they were ranked 12th in the world by FIFA, indicating their strength. Pre-match predictions heavily favored Norway’s victory.
However, New Zealand’s performance yesterday was surprising. They held possession evenly with Norway, with a passing success rate of 64%, 2 shots on target out of 12 attempts, and earned 8 corner kick opportunities. Norway’s statistics were similar to New Zealand’s, with a passing success rate of only 59% and 2 shots on target out of 13 attempts. The number of fouls committed by Norway was three times that of the host country.
Overall, New Zealand played better, even though their individual skills were not on par with Norway’s. The spirit of hard work and determination, which was more evident in the East Asian nation, highlighted the advantage of being the host.
New Zealand scored the decisive goal in the opening 3 minutes of the second half. After a goalless first half, New Zealand took the opportunity to launch a rapid counter-attack, breaking through Norway’s defense. Goalkeeper Victoria Essen kicked a long ball from inside the penalty area to the midfield, which reached Jackie Hand. Hand swiftly advanced with the ball, shaking off defenders. She then passed it into the small penalty area, where forward Hannah Wilkinson received the ball and quickly scored, securing New Zealand’s first-ever victory in the World Cup group stage.
Australia, the other host country, faced Ireland, currently ranked 22nd by FIFA, and they dominated the match comfortably. Australia controlled 63% of the possession, with an impressive passing success rate of 80% in women’s football statistics. They had 13 shots, with 2 on target, and scored 1 goal. On the other hand, Ireland had a passing success rate of only 65%, with 9 shots and 1 on target. Although Australia put pressure on their opponents throughout the match, they had some difficulty in attack without their key player, Sam Kerr, who did not play.
However, in the 49th minute of the second half, Ireland fouled an Australian player inside the penalty area, and the captain, Steph Catley, scored from the penalty spot, securing Australia’s 1-0 victory.
Unlike previous Women’s World Cups, which only allowed 24 teams to enter the group stage, this edition featured 32 teams divided into 8 groups. The top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout stage. It is also the first time the Women’s World Cup is held in the Southern Hemisphere and with dual hosts.
Surprisingly, both Australia and New Zealand, whether highly regarded or underestimated, won their opening matches 1-0. Particularly, New Zealand’s fearless spirit and determination brought more depth to the discussion on women’s football. Although the pace and skills of the Women’s World Cup may not be as thrilling as men’s football, fans can witness the determination and resilience of the women players, which is truly inspiring.
Starting from July 20th, a one-month women’s football tournament is taking place. At 1 PM today, the Philippines will face Switzerland. As the 46th-ranked team by FIFA, can the Philippines show their fighting spirit against Switzerland, ranked 20th? If they win their first match, they will be one step closer to advancing further. Let’s cheer for the Philippines women’s football team together.