The wait is finally over, as the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to start on Thursday, July 20, at Eden Park, in Auckland. Co-hosts New Zealand will be facing off against Norway in what promises to be a thrilling opening match in Group A. With New Zealand’s odds at 9.50 for a home win and Norway Women at 1.25 for an away win, the match might seem like a foregone conclusion. Yet, as we all know, the game isn’t played on paper, but on the pitch, and anything can happen in 90 minutes.
New Zealand and Norway have a history that spans several decades, having been grouped together in the first World Cup in 1991. On that occasion, the Norwegians squeezed out a narrow 1-0 victory. In total, the two sides have faced off eight times, with Norway leading the head-to-head by a significant margin of 6-1.
Given the record, Norway will undoubtedly start the game as favourites. But both teams come into the tournament with less than stellar form. New Zealand has struggled to find their rhythm, winning only one of their last 11 games. Meanwhile, the once-mighty Norway have also hit a rough patch, securing a win in only one of their last seven games.
Despite the recent setbacks, the Norwegian side has a history of performing well on the world stage. The Scandinavian nation has participated in all nine editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and only once have they failed to proceed beyond the group stage. Their team, therefore, can boast a wealth of experience, something that will likely play in their favour on the day.
On the other hand, New Zealand will be banking on the advantages of playing at home. Despite their unimpressive record on the world stage — with the team failing to make it out of the group stage in their previous five tournaments — the support from the home crowd might give the players that extra boost to exceed expectations.
Both teams, however, have had trouble finding the back of the net recently. Eight of New Zealand’s last nine games have seen at least one team fail to score. When it comes to scoring against each other, the statistics show that New Zealand typically manages 0.6 goals per game, while Norway averages 1.4 goals. It seems, then, that both defences will have to be at their best to keep their opponents at bay.
If we take a closer look at the head-to-head stats, it’s clear that Norway has generally had the upper hand in these encounters. The last meeting between the two sides resulted in a 2-goal victory for Norway. In their last five meetings, New Zealand has only been able to beat Norway once, with the latter winning three times and one match ending in a draw.
New Zealand will hope to change this narrative, but history and stats are heavily against them. When Norway leads 0-1 away, they manage to maintain their lead in 100% of their matches. And when New Zealand trails 0-1 at home, they have never managed to turn the game around.
In the end, this tournament’s opening match at Eden Park is not only about the present. It’s about past glories and future redemption. Norway, once the giants of women’s football, are on a quest to recapture their golden era’s magic. On the other side of the pitch, New Zealand, the underdogs and co-hosts, aim to defy the odds and make an impact on the grandest stage in women’s football.
It’s a David and Goliath battle — a tantalizing clash that will set the tone for the rest of the tournament. As the world watches, Norway’s quest for redemption begins, and New Zealand’s fight against the odds ensues. Regardless of the final scoreline, one thing is certain: the spirit of competition, the sheer love of the game, will be on full display at Eden Park.