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World Cup Report: This World Cup is Everything
After Day 1, we already have a moment of the tournament.
New Zealand came into the opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup never ever winning a game in their country’s history. Neither the men or women have tasted victory at the World Cup.
Norway, led by the outstanding duo of Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen, went into the game as -380 favorites with New Zealand as +980 underdogs. Any result other than a Norway win would be considered an upset.
Heartbreakingly, a tragedy also struck hours before the game. A shooting in downtown Auckland, the site of the tournament’s first game, left three people dead, including the shooter, and left six others injured. How these players even managed to play this game in the face of so much heartbreak and sadness is unbelievable.
Ali Riley has been to five World Cups with her first one coming in 2007 at the age of 19. The Los Angeles native plays and captains both Angel City FC and New Zealand.
As the investment in the women’s game continues to improve (there is still so much work to do), more countries have the opportunity to be in the highest stages of football.
So the co-hosts, New Zealand, got to reap some of those improvements and play in front of a record crowd in the country’s history — and then they made history.
In the 48th minute, the Ford Football Ferns went on the counterattack. Jacqui Hand took a few dribbles and delivered the perfect ball in front of goal to Hannah Wilkinson who smashed it in the back of the net. The crowd erupted and the country fell in love with their team.
For being underdogs, they played on the front-foot most of the match and gave it everything they had. The entire country united behind the Ferns and made sure they knew it all game.
When the final whistle blew, they won their first ever World Cup in front of a record-setting crowd.
New Zealand came into the game with heavy hearts, but they left everyone inspired by the strength of the people and their team.
In the postgame interview, Captain Ali Riley said it best:
The Australian Women’s National Team are one of the best teams in the entire world.
Originally they were supposed to play their opener in a smaller stadium, but the people responded and made sure those players got what they truly deserved.
Even with the shocking news of Sam Kerr’s calf injury, this team had 75,784 in Sydney at Stadium Australia cheering them on.
The Matildas faced off against a tough Republic of Ireland side that possesses one of the most underrated defenses in the world.
Hayley Raso, who plays with an intensity and a work rate that is impossible to match, drew the penalty for Australia in the 51st minute. Steph Catley put away to PK to put the co-hosts up 1-0. The former Portland Thorns had their imprints all over this match.
Catley scored her first ever World Cup goal, and it would be the game winner.
The Republic of Ireland started Sinead Farrelly, who has gone through more than any player should have to endure. Farrelly’s career was taken away from her, but she’s found her own way back. The fact that she got to live out her dream and bringing the joy back into her game is incredible and inspiring.
Her strength and courage through it all will always be the light we need.
Australia held on for the 1-0 win. An entire country is behind them and that team absolutely feels it.
The first games of the World Cup reminded us of why we love this game so much. These players have all worked hard to get here, but they have gone through much more than we’ll ever know.
Some have worked their entire careers for a moment. Some have fought off the darkness and brought their light.
The 2023 World Cup is amazing because we will get to witness the beauty, love, and masterpiece that 32 teams will share with us over the course of the next month.