Wins and records for New Zealand and Australia in the opener

Wins and records for New Zealand and Australia in the opener

The Women's World Cup opened on Thursday to great excitement for New Zealand and Australia, the organizing nations, who won from the start with record attendances. But the first day was overshadowed by a shooting in Auckland and the injury of Australian captain Sam Kerr.

The Women's World Cup opened on Thursday with excitement for New Zealand and Australia, with the two starting nations winning with record attendances, a historic day overshadowed by the Auckland shooting and Sam Kerr's injury. More than 115,000 spectators attended the opening two matches of the tournament. They spoiled the New Zealanders' surprise victory over Norway (1-0) and the Australians' expected victory over Ireland (1-0).

The New Zealand public responded to the call, as 42,137 spectators gathered in the famous Eden Park, a record number for a football match in the archipelago, according to the local federation. As for fans of the Australian Matildas team, they also set a historic mark on their home turf for women's football, as 75,784 fans were counted at Stadium Australia, the legendary venue for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Credit: Frank Fife/AFP

minute of silence

Organizers hope that this enthusiasm for a month of competition (until 20 August) will accompany this ninth edition of the Women's World Cup, which is set to accelerate the growth of the discipline, between increased professionalism and a commitment to equality. On the field, the New Zealand Football Ferns were up to the challenge against Norway Former Lyon d'Or player Ada Hegerberg, during the opening match that ended after the end of the first half. A goal from striker Hannah Wilkinson (48th) gave them their first win (1-0) in the competition in their 16th attempt.

And 2,000 kilometers to the west, it was Arsenal's Steve Catley who dressed as a hero by scoring a penalty kick in the 52nd minute. A thrilling moment for the sold-out stadium and beyond. Joy erupted in Melbourne's Federation Square, where a giant screen was installed, despite the cold of this southern winter night. Al-Ula, deployed on the field, almost made us forget the injury of the attacking star and captain, Sam Kerr, who was injured in his calf on Wednesday and was eliminated from at least two matches. A big blow for the “Australians”, especially if the absence extends beyond next July 31, the date of the second group match against the Olympic champion Canada.

The two emotional opening sessions were preceded by a minute of silence in honor of the two people who died in a shooting incident earlier in central Auckland. The shooter also lost his life. The incident, which according to FIFA has nothing to do with the tournament, disrupted the preparations of several nearby teams, including the holders of the double American title. FIFA and the New Zealand authorities have confirmed that there are no specific reasons for concern regarding security around the competition.

“The world will watch”

This is meant to be historical. The first World Cup with 32 teams, the first World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere and the first World Cup organized by two countries: the 736 players called up for this edition hope to take their discipline to a new level, four years after the successful edition in France. “This cup will become symbolic and we will see exceptional matches here. The world will watch,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who expects a “celebration” of women’s football, eight months after the World Cup, which Qatar denounced.

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This context is accompanied by historically high allocations to FIFA: $152 million promised to the teams, three times what it was in 2019 and ten times what it was in 2015. But this acceleration is accompanied by doubts about the health status of the players. Many stars, such as the French Marie Antoinette Katoto or the English Beth Mead, withdrew due to a serious knee injury.

This competition, which is held in the southern hemisphere between the months of July and August, raises questions for television viewers in major football countries, who will sometimes have to wake up early to watch the matches due to the time difference. FIFA narrowly avoided audiovisual failure by signing last-minute broadcast deals in Europe and Japan.

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