When: Thursday, July 20
Where: Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand
Kickoff: 7pm local time (07:00 GMT)
Football may trail behind rugby and cricket in New Zealand, but with the country playing co-host to the FIFA Women’s World Cup starting on Thursday, the world’s most popular sport could finally make its mark in the southwestern Pacific nation.
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New Zealand face the 1995 champions Norway in the opening game at the 50,000-capacity Eden Park Stadium, which is more commonly known as a venue for rugby and football matches.
“It is an opportunity for this country to not just be a rugby country but wake up their love for football,” the Football Ferns’ coach Jitka Klimkova said ahead of the match.
Taking up the theme, captain Ali Riley added: “Hopefully this time we will achieve our goal of winning a World Cup game and doing that at home, and that will make it my greatest game of my career.
“This feels like an opportunity with the sporting culture, inspiring young people.”
New Zealand have won just one of their last 11 matches, but Klimkova is backing them to perform in front of their own fans.
“At this stage the preparation is done and now it is time to shine, and I really believe these players will shine,” she said.
New Zealand’s opponents, the once mighty Norway, have fallen away since triumphing in 1995.
They were thumped 8-0 in the group stage by hosts and eventual champions England at the Euro 2022.
Their Barcelona winger Caroline Graham Hansen said the World Cup was a chance to redeem themselves and a fresh start.
“It is a year ago, a long season behind us,” she said, casting her mind back to their Euro flop.
“It is a clean slate, we have a possibility to start afresh and to get going again.
“That is the beauty of football — there is always a new chance, and now we have it again.”
New Zealand team news
The co-hosts are expected to have a full squad to choose from in the opening game.
Norway team news
Norway’s attack is expected to be led by captain Ada Hegerberg with support from Barcelona’s Caroline Hansen.
Pitch inspection 🤗 pic.twitter.com/4iOEPf0FEe
— Fotballandslaget (@nff_landslag) July 19, 2023
Head to head
Both teams have previously met only once in the Women’s World Cup, in the first edition in 1991 when Norway won 4-0.
Form and ranking
New Zealand sit at number 26 in FIFA’s rankings, while Norway enter the tournament ranked 12th.
New Zealand: L L D L W
Norway: D W L D L
— New Zealand Football 🇳🇿 (@NZ_Football) July 18, 2023
Players to watch
New Zealand: Ali Riley plays her football in Los Angeles. She will hope to make use of her experience to lead the Football Ferns to exceed expectations.
Happy @FIFAWWC month to all who celebrate.
— Ali Riley (@RileyThree) July 1, 2023
Norway: Ada Hegerberg is the all-time UEFA Champions League’s top goal scorer and has won an astonishing six Champions League trophies, as well as eight Division 1 Féminine titles in France.
— Ada S Hegerberg (@AdaStolsmo) July 19, 2023
Where can I watch the game?
Global listings are available from livesoccertv.com.
You can also follow our live blog on the match day.