Football World Cup: Football Ferns captain Ali Riley toasts to overdue long overdue win

Football Ferns captain Ali Riley has described her side's shock World Cup opening win over Norway as the "best night" of her life, and it's easy to understand why.

Riley has been part of New Zealand's previous four World Cup campaigns going all the way back to 2007, without tasting victory.

Hannah Wilkinson celebrates her goal.
Hannah Wilkinson celebrates her goal. Photo credit: Getty Images

And before Thursday's night fixture against 12th-ranked Norway in front of a sold-out Eden Park, that didn't look likely to change.

However, a Hannah Wilkinson strike in the 48th minute gave New Zealand a deserved 1-0 lead, one they would never give up.

For Riley and the rest of New Zealand, it's been a long time coming, with much bigger implications on the line than just three points.

"It's the best day of my life, the best night of my life, we just had Prime Minister Chris [Hipkins] and Jacinda [Ardern] in there," she said. "They said we've changed the country, and we have changed the nation, and the sporting culture, and that was the goal.

"To hear them say that with so much confidence, and for them to be here, and celebrate with us in the locker room, it meant everything, it was the icing on the cake.

"That was our goal, and that is a huge goal, and that is so much pressure, and I think that performance tonight showed anything is possible. I think little girls will want to play football, and just believe, and that their dreams are so big."

What made the win all that much better was doing it in front of the hometown fans, with 42,137 supporters flocking into a packed Eden Park.

Riley and her team aren't ready to give up the winning feeling just yet, with eyes already on their next group game against the Philippines on Tuesday.

"It is so good, and for it to be here in New Zealand just makes it that much sweeter," she said. "We know that winning a game would amplify all our messages, and it would inspire people.

"But for them to see it live, it's just different and it happened. We did it, and I've already iced bathed, had protein, and we're looking at the next game.

"Of course, we're celebrating this, this is huge, but we know it will mean even more if we win the next one and get through the group."

In a match New Zealand were expected to be starved of the ball and have limited shots on goal, it was the visitors that appeared overwhelmed.

Riley believes Wilkinson's goal was just reward for waves of black pressure, and only further fuelled them to close out the win.

"We had been so close to scoring, so it didn't feel like it was against the run of play, it felt like we were pushing for the goal and we finally got it.

"It wasn't shocking, but it was also like 'Okay, we're going to win this game', and then I felt like it gave us more confidence and it didn't give them confidence.

"Sometimes, it can shift after a goal, but it felt like we just kept pushing, we had the penalty opportunity.

"I think from start to finish, there were some shifts in momentum, we just had the upper hand and I think we were tougher, more aggressive and it looked like we wanted it more."

Join Newshub at 5:30pm Tuesday for live updates of the NZ v Philippines World Cup group game