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Record crowds as co-hosts kick-off with wins

New Zealand make history as Australia labour without Kerr

Hannah Wilkinson and Katie Bowen of New Zealand celebrate their team's 1-0 win during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group A match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park on July 20, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Hannah Wilkinson and Katie Bowen of New Zealand celebrate their team's 1-0 win during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group A match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park on July 20, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Image: Phil Walter

Sydney - Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand opened the ninth Women's World Cup with wins and record crowds yesterday after a shooting near the Norwegian team hotel in Auckland that left three dead and six injured.

After an opening ceremony celebrating traditional Maori culture including the famous Haka war dance, a stunning goal from Hannah Wilkinson at Eden Park was the difference in the 1-0 victory over Norway. It marked New Zealand's first ever win in a World Cup.

The crowd of 42,137 bested the host nation's previous record for an international soccer match.

A statement from football's governing body Fifa said it was supporting teams in the vicinity of the shooting incident.

Australia's Matildas began their campaign with a scrappy 1-0 win against Ireland in front of a crowd of 75,784 fans at Stadium Australia in Sydney – a record attendance for a women’s soccer match in the country.

They were dealt a blow before kick-off, however, when talismanic 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 criticising the “disrespect” for the women’s game that forced teams to play on artificial pitches in the 2015 tournament and prize money that still lags the men’s World Cup.

Australia laboured initially but a second-half penalty from Steph Catley got them off to a solid start with a 1-0 win over Ireland in Group B. 

"It's incredible to get the win, I think this is the longest buildup to a game in my entire life," Catley told reporters. "Losing a player like Sam, probably the best player in the world and her as a person, obviously we were heartbroken. We had to use her spirit ... to help us push on. She's so, so important, she's our spiritual leader."

- Reuters

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