New Zealand had never won a Women’s World Cup match in 15 attempts prior to the 2023 tournament but now the co-hosts find themselves on the brink of the knockout stages when it takes on tournament debutant the Philippines on Tuesday.
Having stunned Norway 1-0 in the tournament opener, the Football Ferns can dare to dream having beaten the Asian side 20 rungs below it in the rankings in a friendly last year.
New Zealand has struggled to sell tickets for the showpiece event but 42,137 attended its historic win and midfielder Malia Steinmetz hopes its progress can inspire the next generation.
“It’s one of our main reasons why we’ve been trying to push so hard to play in the way that we do, just for the younger generation. We want to inspire the country,” she told reporters ahead of the game in Wellington.
Norway, meanwhile, will look to avoid a repeat of its group stage exit at the Euros last year when it takes on Switzerland, with coach Hege Riise saying attacking football is its best bet to bounce back.
“We have put ourselves in a difficult position. At the same time, this is a football game. We need to be aware that things can be turned around quickly,” Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg said.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game coming quite quickly. I think that we can actually get into the rhythm to succeed by doing the simple things right - start there and then we build on it.”
But first, Colombia and South Korea will play the final game of the opening round of group matches. Their clash will be the 300th match in the history of the tournament.
All eyes will be on the starting lineups to see if Korea’s American-born teenager Casey Phair becomes the youngest player to take the field in the history of the World Cup -- 26 days after her 16th birthday.
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