New Zealand hope to cause an upset in opening match of Women’s World Cup

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With just one day to go before the start of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, co-hosts New Zealand are determined to cause a major upset in the tournament’s opening match.

The sport’s governing body expects 2 billion people to tune in for the 64-match tournament being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, with the event set to kick off in Auckland on Thursday.

New Zealand has never won a match in its five prior appearances at the Women’s World Cup. And while they face long odds to beat Norway in Thursday’s opener at Eden Park, Co-captain RIA Percival said the Football Ferns are relishing the role of the underdog.

Playing in the same Auckland stadium where the ‘Black Ferns’ secured their sixth women’s Rugby World Cup title last year, New Zealand is determined to give the home fans more reasons to celebrate by beating the 1995 winners, Norway.

“Every game is big for us, and this is just kind of like an added bonus to be able to be here at home and achieve the goals we’ve set out, and like you say, we’re always seen as the underdogs, and for us, we’ve always taken it in our stride, and we’ll do exactly the same looking at the first game tomorrow. But for us, we’re just excited to be here. We’re ready to go, and I think, yeah, we just can’t wait to get started now.”

Excitement is building across Auckland as the city prepares to kick off the Women’s World Cup, culminating years of effort to bring perhaps the largest-ever stand-alone women’s sporting event to its shores.

While Auckland trails nearly all of co-host Australia’s host cities in size, the city of some 1.4 million people is ready to make its mark with the opening ceremony preceding the first match featuring the home team against Norway.

Auckland will host nine matches at Eden Park.

“We’re extremely proud to be hosting not only the opening match but the semi-final fixture as well, so nine matches in total will be played at Eden Park.”

Visitors to New Zealand are also getting excited.

“I’m feeling super excited to be here. I’m here with my aunt, and we are just excited to take in some soccer. They have some great culture here. There are lots of really awesome people we’ve run into and gotten to talk to so far, and I’m so excited for more of that in the coming days.”

Meanwhile, co-hosts Australia start their Group B campaign with a match against Ireland in Sydney on Thursday and will also play Nigeria and Canada.

The FIFA Museum at Sydney’s fan festival was unveiled on Wednesday, just a day before the start of the tournament. The museum, located in Tumbalong Park, will feature memorabilia from past editions.

“We tell a very nice story here as part of this exhibition, and we want to tell this story and make as many people as possible explore those different stories. How do we come, or how did we come to a point where we are right now where the upcoming Women’s World Cup is going to excite the entire world.”

Match officials for the tournament continued with their preparations.

Semi-Automated Offside Technology will make its debut at a Women’s World Cup after its successful introduction at the Men’s World Cup in Qatar last year.

The technology provides support to video match officials, meaning faster and more accurate offside decisions are made during games. Another change for this tournament is that fans in the stadium will hear explanations from the referee communicating the final decision about the Video Assistant Referee reviews.