Co-Hosts New Zealand Face Norway In Opening Game Of The 2023 Women’s World Cup
The 2023 Women’s World Cup kicks off on Thursday with co-hosts New Zealand hosting Norway at Auckland’s Eden Park in Group A.
Jitka Klimkova’s New Zealand side head into a momentous summer in dire form losing four of their last five friendlies ahead of the tournament including two 5-0 losses to the USA and a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Thursday’s opponents in June.
The Black Ferns are appearing at their third consecutive World Cup but are aiming to win a finals match for the first time having lost 12 and drawn three previous encounters.
To make it out of the group, the co-hosts will need to lean on a passionate home crowd and the experience of Ali Riley in their backline and Betsy Hassett and Annalie Longo in midfield.
Tottenham’s Ria Percival will be charged with providing creativity and ammunition for Hannah Wilkinson, Gabrielle Rennie and Paige Satchell upfront.
Hege Riise’s Norway are the clear favourites in Group A and are looking to bounce back from a disappointing group stage exit at Euro 2022 last summer.
Norway’s results coming into the tournament have been poor though as they are winless in four games, suffering defeats to Denmark and Spain, so they will be hoping that a return to competitive action will re-focus hearts and minds.
The Scandinavian outfit possesses one of the stars of the women’s game in forward Ada Hegerberg who became the first-ever winner of the Ballon d’Or Feminin in 2018 and is the record Champions League goalscorer with 59 goals.
The Lyon striker is ready to bring her stellar club form back to the international stage after spending five years away from the national team following a dispute with the Norwegian FA.
Hergerberg’s form will likely determine how far Norway goes in the tournament and she will be looking to get off to a goalscoring start against New Zealand.
Aside from Hegerberg, Norway have several other attacking threats that could do damage against the co-hosts in Thursday’s opener including Barcelona winger Guro Reiten and Arsenal’s attacking midfielder Frida Maanum.
Roma’s Emilie Haavi is an able foil for Hegerberg and Manchester City’s Julie Blakstad is primed to be one of the tournament’s breakout stars.