In a disheartening turn of events for New Zealand, they became the first host nation to be knocked out at the group stage of the Women’s World Cup. This came about despite the Football Ferns fighting hard to secure a 0-0 draw against Switzerland amidst high-energy scenes in Dunedin on Sunday.
New Zealand’s Jacqui Hand came close to scoring in the first half, with the ball hitting the post, but this was as close as they got. The simultaneous 6-0 thrashing of the Philippines by Norway in Auckland sealed New Zealand’s fate.
Switzerland emerged victorious from Group A, without letting a single goal through, even though they themselves did not manage to score in their last two matches. On the other hand, Norway endured a turbulent campaign and the absence of their star player, Ada Hegerberg, due to injury, but still managed to secure a spot in the round of 16.
The shocking loss to the Philippines became a significant turning point for New Zealand, which had started the tournament with a 1-0 win over Norway. The upset defeat has been a costly one for the host nation.
Australia, the co-host, will be hoping to evade a similar outcome as they face Canada in their final Group B match on Monday. Interestingly, all the eight previous hosts since 1991 have made it to the knockout phase.
For Norway, their journey so far has been far from smooth, but they finally had a reason to celebrate. Sophie Roman Haug led the way with an impressive hat-trick, which included two early goals and another one later. Caroline Graham Hansen, despite her disputes with coach Hege Riise, added another fantastic goal from long distance. Alicia Barker of the Philippines’ own goal and Guro Reiten’s penalty kick added to Norway’s tally.
Norway’s next challenge will be the winner of Group C, the result of which will be determined by an essential match between Spain and Japan. Meanwhile, Switzerland will play against the runner-up from the same group.
The elimination of the host nation always brings a wave of disappointment. New Zealand certainly won the hearts of many neutrals across the globe. Their journey, filled with dramatic twists and turns, ended with the fans giving them a round of applause as they walked off the pitch.
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