Women’s World Cup: Hosts New Zealand and Australia kick off 2023’s summer of football

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The 2023 Women’s World Cup finally gets underway on Thursday with the two host nations kicking off the tournament and the summer of footballing festivities.

New Zealand starts things off with the co-host taking on Norway in the first game of the tournament. Australia then come up against the Republic of Ireland with one of the competition’s frontrunners looking to get off to a winning start in front of a home crowd.

All eyes will be on two talented strikers in the opening games as Ada Hegerberg returns to the World Cup for Norway and Sam Kerr leads Australia in their opening fixture.

New Zealand vs Norway

New Zealand’s unwanted record

The World Cup loves an underdog story and buoyed by home support, New Zealand will be hoping to upset the odds and make a memorable start to this momentous occasion.

While New Zealand isn’t expected to set the world alight during the tournament, this World Cup could have a huge impact on football in the country for generations to come.

“What this World Cup stands for, and these milestones are even more important and bigger than me and any of my goals on the soccer field. So, I think for all of that to come together in one moment in New Zealand, with my friends and family there I just think it will be absolutely hands down the highlight of my career,” Riley added.

However, coming into this tournament New Zealand hold a record that nobody wants to have by its name.

The Football Ferns are without a win from their 15 World Cup Games. This is more than any side have played in the World Cup without achieving a single win and the longest total run of any nation without a win in football’s biggest competition.

New Zealand are also yet to make it past the group stages but will be hoping a positive start to its World Cup campaign can ignite a historic run.

Ada Hegerberg’s World Cup comeback

Norway comes into the game against their hosts as heavy favorites and with star quality all over the pitch.

Norway, the 1995 World Cup winners, will be led by talismanic striker Hegerberg throughout this year’s tournament.

The 2018 Ballon d’Or Féminin winner will be crucial for Norway’s chances of going far in the World Cup and her record for the national team is excellent. However, the 2023 World Cup represents a first for Hegerberg since 2015.

Due to disputes with the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF), Hegerberg stopped playing international football in 2017 and said her decision came down to frustrations with the way women’s football was treated within the country.

Now back in the national team and firing, New Zealand will have its work cut out to thwart the Olympique Lyonnais Féminin striker.

Australia vs Republic of Ireland

Waltzing Matildas

Unlike their fellow hosts, Australia come into the tournament as one of the early favorites for World Cup glory.

The hosts have progressed out of the group stages in the last four World Cups and will look to take this momentum into their own backyard.

The Matildas will believe they have a fighting chance of going far in the tournament and, with Kerr in attack, Australia has a constant goal threat going forward.

The Chelsea striker is one of the world’s most imperious goal scorers and Australia’s chances of progressing in this tournament will rest firmly on their star striker’s performances.

Australia will also be looking to make sure it gets off to a better start than in its last three opening World Cup games.

The Aussies lost 1-0 against Brazil in 2011, 3-1 vs the USA in 2015 and 2-1 against Italy in 2019. A sleepy start would send nerves coursing through the country, so getting off to a flier is imperative.

The debutants

Standing in Australia’s way in their opener is World Cup debutants the Republic of Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland’s captain and talisman is Arsenal’s Swiss army knife, Katie McCabe. McCabe has overcome a late injury scare to make the World Cup and embodies her national team’s courageous and battling style of play.

Ireland will need to channel McCabe’s energy if they are able to go toe-to-toe with Australia in its own backyard.

However, the team are coming into the game off the back of a rough-and-tumble friendly against Colombia.

The game was abandoned after it was deemed “overly physical,” the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) said in a statement.

The behind-closed-doors match in Brisbane, Australia ended after 20 minutes, the FAI said on Friday, with the team proceeding to take part in a full training session instead.

How to watch

New Zealand vs Norway kicks off at 03:00 AM ET with Australia vs Republic of Ireland starting at 08:00 AM ET.

Click here for a list of broadcasters from around the world.

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