The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off on Thursday with co-hosts New Zealand battling Norway at Eden Park.
NZ-W vs NOR-W Match Details
Date: Thursday, 20 July 2023
Time: 12:30 (IST) / 19:00 (NZST)
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
NZ-W vs NOR-W Match Preview
The biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup of all with 32 nations is finally home for New Zealand jointly hosting it with Australia. Without a domestic league for women’s football in the country and players having their careers abroad, this will be a chance for them to showcase their skills in front of family and friends. That will bring pressure in itself placed in a tough group with Norway, Switzerland and tricky debutants Philippines. Before this, the Black Ferns have appeared in five tournaments but failed to win a single game so far. They have drawn three games in the previous 12 occasions. Jitka Klimkova’s side will be hoping for a point in the curtain-raiser as a victory against Norway is a little too far-fetched. A win in any of the next two games might give them a chance for the knockouts for the first time. However, looking at their competition record and their form of just one win in 12 matches it will be hard to come by. Optimism could be made about the record of hosts in the past tournaments where each have at least made it out of the group stages. Therefore, the 26th-ranked nation are knotting the strings in the hope of that.
For Norway, it will be a battle to match the same or better the standards set in 2019 where they reached the quarterfinals upsetting now co-hosts Australia in the last-16 stage. The 1995 winners have not got past the last eight stages though since 2007 having competed at every edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. First of all, the Grasshoppers have to address their forgetful Euro campaign last summer, winning just one in their group stage exit, where they suffered an 8-0 destruction in the hands of England. The same team whom they were eliminated against four years ago. While moving to the knockouts is a guarantee for the side with top place battle with Switzerland only the real test till now, Norway does not want lingering issues in their defence to pop up again. Otherwise, the team is more than capable to ask questions of the opponent with a mind-blowing front three and a stacked midfield. Gaining three points against New Zealand to start their campaign on a high should not be an issue for the competition winner as a player, Hege Riise and her side.
NZ-W vs NOR-W Team News
The selection of the final squad for New Zealand for the 2023 Women’s World Cup raised some eyebrows with Meikayla Moore left out. The Glasgow City defender has been a regular member of the Black Ferns and has been on the roster for the 2015 edition as well, missing the last one through injury. Whether her absence is a thing for concern that will be known after the first match as Rebekah Stott and Katie Bowen makes the centre-back partnership of a rigid 4-4-2 system. The big boost for the team is that record cap-holder Ria Percival is back in the squad from a serious knee injury. She will pair Betsy Hassett in the midfield. The goal-scoring duty falls on the shoulder of Hannah Wilkinson who has 28 goals in 113 caps and also Jacquelin Hand after a decent club season.
The back-four remains a concern for Norway although Maren Mjelde’s excellent form for Chelsea slotting in the centre-back role will relax some nerves. The full-back position is not settled either with Tuva Hansen and Marit Lund hoping to sort it out. After the lesson against England, Julie Blakstad will not be shifted from her role. Norway will begin with an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation. The front three is the heartbeat of the team with aggressive and lethal wingers Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten translating their club form while Ada Hegerberg is fit to lead the line. The record goal-scorer in the Women’s Champions League missed the last tournament in protest of the treatment of players by the federation.
NZ-W: Erin Nayer; Catherin Bott, Rebekah Stott, Katie Bowen, Ali Riley; Grace Jale, Betsy Hassett, Ria Percival, Olivia Chance; Jacquelin Hand, Hannah Wilkinson
NOR-W: Aurora Mikalsen; Tuva Hansen, Maren Mjelde, Mathilde Harviken, Marit Lund; Boe Risa, Ingrid Engen; Graham Hansen, Frida Maanum, Guro Reiten; Ada Hegerberg
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NZ-W vs NOR-W Battle to watch out for
Ria Percival and Frida Maanum
The two key players in midfield for their respective nations, Ria Percival and Frida Maanum will try to outdo each other to decide the outcome of the encounter. Nicknamed the fighter, Percival came back from an injury that almost ended her football career. She will be more motivated than ever to put her tenacious work in midfield to keep the region as solid as possible for New Zealand. While Maanum brings creativity to Norway after having a productive season with Arsenal at her club level. The 24-year-old will play in an advanced midfield role to open up space and feed the lethal front three with goals of her own.
Catherin Bott and Guro Reiten
This game could be decided on who wins the battle on the flanks. While New Zealand could exploit Norway’s weakness in the full-back region, they could face the same wrath with inverted wingers Reiten and Hansen steaming towards them. The right-hand side will be particularly exciting with one of the best full-back in WSL, Catherin Bott keeping an eye on arguably the best player in the same competition in Guro Reiten. Known to strike her balance in attack and defence, the latter will be more important for Bott in this match to prevent the Chelsea winger to snap at her heels all the time. The same lyrical will be made on the other flank with Graham Hansen's swift skill and chance-creating ability ready to trouble Ali Riley.
NZ-W vs NOR-W Head-to-head
NZ-W won: 0
NOR-W won: 3
NZ-W vs NOR-W Dream11 Team Prediction
GK: Nayer (7.5)
DEF: Bott (7.5), Mjelde (9), Riley (8.5)
MID: Maanum (8.5), Percival (9), Hassett (8.5), Reiten (9)
FW: G Hansen (9), Hegerberg (8.5), Wilkinson (9)
Vice-captain: Graham Hansen
Captain: Guro Reiten
Guro Reiten got nine goals and delivered 11 assists for Chelsea in the WSL. Two goals and four assists in the Women’s Champions League as well.
Graham Hansen has been a crucial figure in Barcelona clinching the treble last season. The 28-year-old scored 11 goals and added six assists in 13 league matches while her numbers in Europe were two goals and three assists in six matches.
Frida Maanum had the best return of career at club level contributing to nine goals and four assists in 22 WSL matches for Arsenal. In the run-up to the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League, she made eight goal contributions in nine matches.
NZ-W vs NOR-W Prediction
New Zealand Women 0-2 Norway Women
New Zealand will enjoy playing the Women’s World Cup at home with full-backing from the home crowd despite ticket sale problems in the country. However, it is unlikely they will be able to prevail against a quality-filled Norway team posing one of the best attacks in the tournament. If their defence is switched on, they will be able to achieve a clean sheet as well.