New Zealand captain Ali Riley says her side proved the doubters wrong with their historic 1-0 win over Norway in the 2023 Women’s World Cup opening game.
Riley’s New Zealand came into the World Cup in poor form, having lost seven of their previous nine games.
But a goal from Hannah Wilkinson at the beginning of the second half secured a first victory by a New Zealand side, male or female, at a World Cup. The teams had previously combined for six draws and 15 defeats at previous tournaments.
“I’m so, so proud,” a tearful Riley said after the match at Eden Park. “We’ve been fighting for this for so long and we had a clear goal that we wanted to inspire young girls, young people, in this country and around the world. And I really think we did that tonight — anything is possible!”
“I think there’ve been a lot of doubters because of the results we’ve had but we’ve believed.
“We believed in ourselves this entire game. We believed in ourselves from the very beginning and we showed it. We played with confidence and with poise.”
Look at those scenes at full-time! 🤩
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 20, 2023
The beginning of the World Cup was overshadowed by a serious incident in Auckland, the city where New Zealand played Norway, on the morning of the opening fixtures. Two people died and five were injured in a shooting, with minute’s silences held before each of the matches on Thursday.
“The energy (from the Eden Park crowd) helped us get through it,” Riley added. “This morning, something really tragic happened.
“We wanted to bring something positive tonight and we thought of the victims and the first responders and they made us so proud. We wanted to just help bring something amazing today.”
New Zealand could have won the match 2-0 but Ria Percival saw her late penalty hit the crossbar.
The tournament co-hosts now sit top of Group A after the 1-0 win and face the Philippines on Tuesday. Norway take on Switzerland in their next game later that day.
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(Photo: SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)