DAustralia and New Zealand had an emotional roller coaster on the first day of their World Cup. After a morning of fanfare in Auckland, New Zealand, the opening match was threatened with cancellation. Later in the evening, the “Ferns,” as the New Zealanders call themselves, celebrated an unexpected 1-0 victory over the Norwegians, who were considered the strongest team.
With the Islanders still in tears of joy, bad news for the Australians ahead of their game against Ireland: their star striker Sam Kerr had to sit on the bench. He will also miss the next match against Nigeria after picking up a leg injury in training. However, Australia took a 1-0 lead. The “Matildas” game against Ireland kicked off in Sydney an hour after the game in New Zealand.
Scenes near a Norwegian settlement
Football fans also held their breath this morning after a gunman shot two people dead at a construction site in the New Zealand capital, Auckland. The killer also died. The shooting took place 300 meters from the Norwegian team hotel. Their captain Maren Mjeldeb said the whole team woke up early in the morning as police helicopters circled. Both the opening matches of this World Cup started with a minute’s silence for the victims.
In Auckland, the co-hosts, ranked 26th in the world, kept pace with the Norwegians (12th). In the end, both teams were evenly matched in terms of possession and shots on goal. The first goal of this World Cup was scored by a player from the Emerald Isle, who had already made a very brief appearance at MSV Duisburg in Germany: immediately after the restart in the second half, New Zealand striker Hannah Wilkinson put the ball into the top right corner of the Norwegian goal.
New Zealand did it again, though the Norwegians fought back as best they could. In the 90th minute Ria Perciva hit a penalty kick against the crossbar. Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita explained his video evidence decision live to the audience over stadium loudspeakers. Norwegian defender Dua Hansen from Bayern Munich gets his hands on the ball earlier. The win for the Ferns was their first at the World Championships. The 42,000 crowd that packed Eden Park Stadium on Thursday evening looked as though the trophy was already theirs.
2,000 kilometers west, in Sydney, there was celebration from the start: the Olympic Stadium was sold out with 70,000 people. Expectations were high after the Australians beat France, ranked fifth in the world, 1-0 in Melbourne a week ago. On the pitch, their Swedish coach Toni Gustavsson deliberately kept the “Matildas” calm and calculated.
They waited for an opportunity. With long, deliberate passes, they tried to outrun the Irish. In this way, they always created better opportunities for themselves. As with the trial in Melbourne, the result was inconclusive. In the penalty area, the Gold-Greens were unable to overcome the close-knit Irish team, who bit off every attack in two or three men.
The Australians, on the other hand, played at a blistering pace throughout the first half; The work of Jack Sharkey, a British sports scientist brought in from Aston Villa by Gustavson, paid off. Additionally, the Australian women’s soccer team’s most proud cohesion is evident in every situation – Kerr doesn’t bring her teammates water bottles during warm-ups.
Five minutes after the restart, Ireland’s Marisa Sheva fouled Australia’s right wing Hayley Raso in the penalty area. Arsenal’s Steph Gately effortlessly converted his first penalty for Australia. From the 70th minute the Irish bounced back and prevented the opposition from building up. But Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold showed her strength with more balls after several corners. The first night of this World Cup was a football party in Oceania.
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