New Zealand secured its first-ever World Cup win Thursday with a shocking 1-0 victory over Norway in front of an exuberant home crowd in Auckland.
The Football Ferns rose to the challenge on home soil in front of 42,137 fans, a record for women’s and men’s soccer in the country.
“There was just belief, belief that we were going to win,” said Hannah Wilkinson, who provided the lone goal of the match. “We had so many Kiwis to make proud tonight. I think feeling that support all around us, we kind of just knew that this was gonna be it for us. We were gonna get this. We were creating chances and even before we scored, we knew that it was coming. So when you get that kind of energy, it’s kind of indescribable.”
New Zealand captain Ali Riley had said before the tournament that the team felt the pressure to get its first-ever World Cup win.
“I know if we do that, so many little girls want to take up soccer and it will help our program have a successful future, which is so important to me on the back end of my career, having played for the team now since 2007,” she said on Snacks.
“There’s so many things that I want to happen after this World Cup and it starts to feel like a lot. But I know that if one little girl is inspired to pick up sport that it will improve her life and have her experience some of the amazing lessons that I’ve learned and how much sport has helped me, whether she becomes a professional player or a national team player or not.”
After her team achieved its goal to open the tournament, Riley found herself overcome with emotion in her postgame interview as she described the history-making moment.
“I’m so, so proud. We’ve been fighting for this for so long and we had a clear goal, that we wanted to inspire young girls, young people around this country and around the world,” she said. “And I really think we did that tonight. Anything is possible.
“It’s the best time of my life. But I think with the performance, we deserved it. We believed in ourselves the whole time. It looked like we wanted it more, and that gave us confidence. And we were pushing to score.”