Football World Cup: New Zealand target first victory as tournament kicks off against Norway

Hours out from the start of the women's Football World Cup - co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia - there's nothing more the Football Ferns could have done as they chase history on home soil.

Since it was announced that New Zealand would co-host the World Cup back in 2020, things have hardly gone to play for the Football Ferns.

In 25 games since the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the Football Ferns have won just four, to go with four draws and 17 defeats.

But while difficult, that run of results hasn't deterred the Football Ferns in any sense.

Jitka Klimkova.
Jitka Klimkova. Photo credit: Photosport

With the bigger picture of the World Cup always on the horizon, coach Jitka Klimkova has always had the perspective of being ready at the right time.

Fast-forward to July 2023, a history-making clash against Norway at Eden Park will open the tournament.

A sell-out crowd of around 43,000 is on the cards for Thursday's opener - with a stark contrast between the two teams.

Norway are one of the game's powerhouses, boasting a World Cup win in 1995, and some of the best players in the game.

Up front, Norway are led by Ada Hegerberg, who became the first female player to win the Ballon d'Or Feminin in 2018 - the women's equivalent of the Ballon d'Or. In 76 games for Norway, Hegerberg has scored an impressive 43 goals.

But after securing a much-needed victory over Vietnam in their final friendly match, has the Football Ferns on the right track, as they chase history of their own over the coming weeks.

The Football Ferns.
The Football Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

And for coach Klimkova, despite the struggles of recent times, she wouldn't have it any other way. 

"The preparation, the hard work, brought us to where we are right now," said Klimkova. 

"I can really sense in our team, with our more experienced players, with our young players, we've done everything we could to be prepared for this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity for everybody involved with this team.

"It was tough, it was hard, it hurt many times. But at this stage, the preparation is done.

"Now it's time to shine. I believe our players are going to shine on the field."

History, though, is against the Football Ferns as they begin their World Cup.

This year represents the sixth time New Zealand will compete at football's showpiece, albeit qualifying automatically due to their status as co-hosts.

But from their first appearance in 1991, to last appearing in 2019, the Football Ferns are still to win a game.

Their record reads 15 games, with three draws and 12 defeats.

But for co-captain Ria Percival, achieving a maiden victory at the World Cup will leave the class of 2023 in a company that can lay a platform for future generations of Football Ferns to come. 

"For us, the goals of this tournament, we want to win a game," added Percival. "We're taking it each game at a time.

"For us, the next step is making it out of the group. We've worked hard, we're really focussed on this.

"Our goal is to inspire the younger generation and all the kids that are here. Not just now, but for the future.

"We want to leave that legacy, that we've achieved something, for all of them to look up to us."