Women’s World Cup Hosts Begin With Wins, Record Crowds

By: Gyang Dakwo

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

Police said the shooter was among those killed and the danger from the incident was over, while New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there was no risk to national security.

After an opening ceremony celebrating traditional Maori culture including the famous Haka war dance, a slick team goal finished off by Hannah Wilkinson at Eden Park was the difference in New Zealand’s 1-0 victory over Norway, their first ever at a World Cup.

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

“To get their first win at home while they’re hosting… it’s a moment in history, for women’s football and for New Zealand women’s football,” said Kirsten Johnson, a 39-year-old New Zealand supporter from the United States.

Likewise, 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.

“It was really entertaining match, fast paced and intense, it was great,” said Australia supporter Jacinta Hayde.

“I think we’ve just got great momentum at the moment, really looking forward to seeing the rest.”

The Australians 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.