Football Ferns achieve historic win at FIFA World Cup™

20 July 2023

A football player in black uniform runs away from goal with a clenched fist after scoring a goal.
Hannah Wilkinson celebrates after scoring against Norway (Photosport)

The Football Ferns’ 1–0 victory over Norway at Eden Park, Auckland in the first match of the finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ was momentous. It was the first win by a senior New Zealand team – women’s or men’s – at a World Cup finals tournament. And the crowd of 42,137 at the rugby stronghold was the largest ever to attend a football match in New Zealand. (This number was surpassed four times later in the tournament at the same venue, including three capacity crowds of 43,217.)

As co-hosts with Australia, New Zealand were favourably seeded in the tournament despite their lowest-ever world ranking of 26th. Twelfth-ranked Norway were expected to be too classy across the park for the Football Ferns, who had won just two and drawn two of the 16 matches they had played since October 2021 under new coach Jitka Klimková.

During the first half, New Zealand played unexpectedly attacking football. Early in the second half, a planned move from a Football Ferns goal kick was executed perfectly, culminating with Hannah Wilkinson side-footing the ball into the net from close range. New Zealand could have sealed the win late in normal time with a shot from a penalty that hit the crossbar. Instead, they had to hang on for nine long minutes of extra time to win a famous victory.

With local expectations now sky-high, the Football Ferns’ matches in Wellington and Dunedin attracted capacity crowds. They were unable to repeat their opening-night heroics, losing 1–0 to the Philippines and drawing 0–0 with Switzerland to finish third in Group A and fail to qualify for the round of 16.

A total of nearly 709,000 spectators attended the 29 matches played in New Zealand. The average attendance of 24,450 has been bettered only by the figure of 30,000 for matches in the 2011 men’s Rugby World Cup. 78% of the tickets to matches at Eden Park were sold in New Zealand and 12% in the United States, whose team was based in Auckland during the group stage of the tournament.

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