Women's World Cup 2023 kicks off

By Ben Church, Matias Grez, Tara Subramaniam, Hilary Whiteman, Adam Renton and Patrick Sung, CNN

Updated 5:05 p.m. ET, July 20, 2023
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6:01 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

New Zealand seals first ever World Cup victory with epic 1-0 win over Norway

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand's Betsy Hassett and Gabi Rennie celebrate after winning the match.
New Zealand's Betsy Hassett and Gabi Rennie celebrate after winning the match. David Rowland/Reuters

At the 16th attempt, they've finally done it.

Co-hosts New Zealand have beaten Norway 1-0 in the opening match of the FIFA 2023 Women's World Cup at Auckland's Eden Park — their first ever World Cup win.

Hannah Wilkinson tapped home the second-half winner, connecting with an inch-perfect cross from Jacqui Hand that sent the 42,000 packed-out home crowd wild.

The Football Ferns had previously gone without a win from their 15 World Cup games —the longest total run of any nation without a win in football’s biggest competition.

New Zealand is also yet to make it past the group stage but will be hoping that this positive start to its World Cup campaign can ignite a historic run and spark a women's soccer revolution in their home country.

Already fans in the stadium have expressed excitement at what's to come, as their team prepares to travel to Wellington to face World Cup debutants the Philippines on July 25, before facing Switzerland on July 30 in Dunedin.

6:01 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Norway's Bjelde carried off field by teammates

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

In stoppage time, two Norway players carried off midfielder Thea Bjelde, who appeared injured.

The scene prompted laughter around the stadium as the players rushed their team mate off without waiting for medical staff as the clock ticked down.

Norway trail New Zealand 0-1, with minutes left in the first game of the 2023 Women's World Cup.

6:01 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Drama as New Zealand miss penalty with minutes to go

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand's Ria Percival reacts after missing a penalty on July 20.
New Zealand's Ria Percival reacts after missing a penalty on July 20. Andrew Cornaga/AP

With less than five minutes left in regulation time, New Zealand's Ria Percival missed a penalty that could have cemented the team's lead over Norway.

The home team leads 1-0 and is minutes away from winning their first ever World Cup match.

4:51 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Attendance at World Cup opening game sets soccer record for New Zealand

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

Fans watch the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Group A football match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand on July 20.
Fans watch the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Group A football match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand on July 20. Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

A record 42,137 people are in the stands for the opening game of the 2023 Women's World Cup, organizers have announced — setting a record for any soccer match in the country, men’s or women’s.

Organizers had hoped to attract a large home crowd, as co-hosts and tournament underdogs New Zealand battle former winners Norway at Auckland's 123-year-old Eden Park.

The 2023 Women's World Cup is on track to be the most attended standalone women’s sporting event in history, according to FIFA — with record ticket sales.

4:24 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

Home fans upbeat as New Zealand aims for first ever World Cup win

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

The mood in Auckland's Eden Park Stadium is jubilant, as underdogs New Zealand lead 1-0 against much-fancied Norway thanks to a goal from Hannah Wilkinson.

Fans have broken out in several rounds of loud cheers in support of the Ferns, as the women's team is known.

The challenge now for the home team is to hang on. Despite playing in five previous tournaments, New Zealand has the unenviable record of having never won a match in World Cup competition.

Norway, meanwhile, lifted the trophy in 1995 and were considered among the favorites heading into this year's cup.

4:20 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

This family bought tickets to all the games in Auckland

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

Jeremy Seales and his son, Rafferty.
Jeremy Seales and his son, Rafferty. Tara Subramaniam/CNN

Jeremy Seales and his son, Rafferty, have been looking forward to the World Cup for months.

"We booked tickets quite a few months ago now. He's been counting down," Seales told CNN. "We got tickets to every game here."

"He's been pretty excited about coming," Seales said of his son.

4:15 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

New Zealand fans show up in big numbers to get behind the co-hosts

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand fans Ohm and Jeffrey.
New Zealand fans Ohm and Jeffrey. Tara Subramaniam/CNN

New Zealand fans are out in force for the co-host's opening match against Norway in Auckland Thursday.

Ohm and Jeffrey, who declined to provide their last names, said they didn't usually watch the women's game but came out to get behind the home team.

A record New Zealand's women's team crowd is expected Thursday at Eden Park stadium for the tournament opener. The 123-year-old stadium has a capacity of more than 40,500 seats for the tournament, according to FIFA.

A record New Zealand women's team crowd is expected Thursday at Auckland's Eden Park.
A record New Zealand women's team crowd is expected Thursday at Auckland's Eden Park. Tara Subramaniam/CNN

The 2023 Women's World Cup is on track to be the most attended standalone women’s sporting event in history, according to FIFA — with record ticket sales. But in New Zealand, ticket sales have slowed.

Auckland resident Navneet Kanwal said he'd heard of the reports of low ticket sales elsewhere and suggested they could be due to a lack of awareness. He told CNN he only realized the tournament was being hosted in Auckland last week from a friend, but was nonetheless excited. 

“Because it's a New Zealand match today, we wanted to just be a part of it,” Kanwal said, adding that he hopes hosting the World Cup is a precursor for the country to host more big events
6:01 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

GOAL: New Zealand go one up against Norway

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

Hannah Wilkinson of New Zealand celebrates after scoring her team's first goal on July 20.
Hannah Wilkinson of New Zealand celebrates after scoring her team's first goal on July 20. Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has broken the deadlock, shocking favorites Norway with the tournament's opening goal.

The goal saw New Zealand's Hannah Wilkinson connect with an inch-perfect cross from teammate Jacqui Hand, tapping home from close range and sending the packed-out home crowd at Auckland's Eden Park wild.

3:54 a.m. ET, July 20, 2023

It's a family affair for these opening ceremony dancers

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam in Auckland, New Zealand

Tara Subramaniam/CNN
Tara Subramaniam/CNN

The Women's World Cup opening ceremony in Auckland featured dancers dressed in jerseys representing all 32 participating nations.

Among the dancers were Sarah Duffy and her daughter, who plays for a local club. Duffy said they had five weekends of rehearsals and a few dress rehearsals before Thursday's performance. 

"It's been incredible. It's really buzzy," Duffy said of the experience. "We've never done anything like it before."

She praised the show's coordinators as "incredible," adding, "their vision, their patience and their kindness, they're amazing."