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2023 Women's World Cup

The Big Story: Co-hosts New Zealand, Australia each win World Cup openers

Photo: Ane Frosaker / SPP

Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand were each victorious on Thursday in the opening matches of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, scoring one goal each.

Slept through it and need to know what The Big Story is? This is what happened Thursday at the World Cup.

Your bite-sized recap of what happened at the 2023 Women’s World Cup

New Zealand 1, Norway 0

The Big Story: New Zealand won a World Cup game for the first time after 15 failed attempts spanning 32 years, and the Football Ferns did so in front of 42,137 fans at Eden Park in Auckland.

The Big Moment: Hannah Wilkinson scored the game’s lone goal in the 48th minute, finishing a succinct sequence from New Zealand that started with a goal kick meant to draw Norway out of its shape.

What it means: To New Zealand, everything. “This is the best night of my life,” captain Ali Riley said after the match. Riley was overwhelmed with tears in the moments after the match. She said that this win was for all the players who came before, and all the young kids at home. Riley also thanked the first responders who reported to a shooting in central Auckland hours before kickoff that left three people, including the gunman, dead. The incident occurred only one block from Norway’s hotel.

For Norway, the top-ranked team in the group, the loss spells trouble. They were outworked from the opening whistle and generated nothing in the way of a cohesive attack. Norway, with Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten in the attack, failed to put a shot on frame until the 81st minute. They got bossed around in midfield and exposed on defense as New Zealand played direct.

“Opening game, they are the hosts: We have talked about this,” Reiten said. “We knew they were gonna go out there and be aggressive. We knew exactly how they wanted to play, but still, we were so poor, especially in that first half. I’m just, I’m very disappointed.”

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Australia 1, Ireland 0

The Big Story: It came before kickoff. Star striker Sam Kerr — the face of the tournament — missed the game with a calf injury sustained the day prior. Kerr will also miss the team’s next match, against Nigeria on July 27, before being reassessed.

The Big Moment: Steph Catley stepped up to the penalty spot in the 52nd minute to bury her shot for the game’s lone goal.

What it means: Job No. 1 is done for Australia, and with some relief given the Kerr news. Ireland is a scrappy side capable of picking up points, and they nearly found an equalizer in the final moments through Katie McCabe. Three points was a must from this game for Australia if hopes of winning a World Cup on home soil are to be at all realistic.

And how about that crowd of 75,784? That’s a record for an Australia home match, and a good sign of how the country will turn up for the Matildas.

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