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New Zealand kicks off World Cup with 1-0 win against Norway



Hannah Wilkinson scored to open the second half and New Zealand went on to beat Norway 1-0 on Thursday for its first-ever win at the Women’s World Cup, just hours after a shooting in downtown Auckland shocked the host nation.

A gunman stormed a high-rise construction site near Norway’s team hotel and opened fire, killing two people. The gunman was found dead after a police shootout.

There was increased security at Eden Park stadium, where 42,137 — a record crowd for a soccer match in New Zealand — were on hand to cheer on the home team, co-hosts of the tournament with Australia. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was among those at the game.

After an opening ceremony that honored New Zealand’s Indigenous heritage, there was a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting. Four people were wounded in the attack, including an police officer.

New Zealand got the nod to stage the first game, although co-host Australia’s match against Ireland in Sydney started about an hour later.

The Football Ferns had played in five previous World Cups, but hadn’t won a match.

Norway couldn’t finish its chances in the first half while the Ferns defended well. Ada Hegerberg’s attempt in the 37th minute was deftly defended by Rebekah Stott and the match was scoreless after the first half.

The first woman to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, Hegerberg has 43 goals in 77 international appearances. Currently playing professionally for Lyon, she has scored a record 59 goals in the Champions League.

Wilkinson scored in the opening moments of the second half. Jaqui Hand came up the right side and placed a perfect cross at Wilkinson’s feet for the goal. While the home crowd wildly celebrated, Norway goalkeeper Aurora Mikalson stood with her hands on her hips.

Norway won the World Cup in 1995. At the last tournament in 2019, the team fell to England in the quarterfinals. At the Women’s Euro in 2022, England routed the Norwegians 8-0. In the run-up to this game, winger Caroline Graham Hansen called the World Cup a chance to ”start fresh.”

Tuva Hansen nearly scored for Norway in the 83rd but her shot hit the crossbar and caromed over the net.

The Ferns nearly doubled their lead in the 89th after a video review awarded them a penalty, but Ria Percival’s attempt hit the post.

Stoppage time stretched for more than 10 minutes before the whistle blew and New Zealand’s bench rushed the field in celebration. Ferns captain Ali Riley pounded her chest, then buried her head in her hands in happy tears.

Considered the favorites in Group A, the Norwegians went into the game 5-1-1 all-time against New Zealand, with the only loss coming in a 2019 exhibition match.

New Zealand has struggled in the run-up to the tournament on home soil, with just one win in its last 11 matches.

The two teams had met just once before at the World Cup: Norway beat the Ferns 4-0 in 1991.

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Int’l Friendlies: FIFA appoints referees, VAR officials for Eagles, Saudi Arabia game




World football-governing body, FIFA has appointed Portuguese official Luis Godinho as referee for the international friendly match between three-time African champions Nigeria and Asian giants Saudi Arabia, coming up at the Estadio Municipal de Portimão next week Friday.

Godinho will be assisted by compatriots Bruno Jesus (assistant referee 1), Tiago Costa (assistant referee 2) and Miguel Noguera (fourth official) at the match kicking off by 5pm Portugal time (same time as in Nigeria).

Also appointed are Helder Carvalho to head the situation in the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) room, to be assisted by Bruno Vieira.

It is the second-ever clash between both countries. The Super Eagles and the Green Falcons battled to a scoreless draw in a pre-2010 FIFA World Cup friendly game at the Alpenstadion in Wattens, Austria on 25th May 2010.

The Eagles have another friendly encounter against the Mambas of Mozambique at the same venue on Monday, 16th October 2023, starting at 4pm.

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Argentina, Spain among six countries to host 2030 World Cup




A unique 2030 World Cup is set to be played in Europe and Africa with the surprising addition of South America in a deal to allow the men’s soccer tournament to start with a 100th birthday celebration in Uruguay.

FIFA reached an agreement Wednesday between soccer’s continental leaders to accept only one candidate for hosting the 2030 tournament, the sport’s governing body said.

The Spain-Portugal bid grew to add Morocco this year and now also includes long-time bid rivals Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

A key lure of the unprecedented three-continent project will open in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, where the Centenario Stadium hosted the inaugural 1930 World Cup final.

“The centennial World Cup could not be far from South America, where everything began,” said Alejandro Dominguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL. “The 2030 World Cup will be played in three continents.”

The consensus reached by once-rival soccer continents also let FIFA fast-track opening the 2034 World Cup bidding contest Wednesday which is limited to member federations from Asia and Oceania.

Argentina became three-time world champions when they won the tournament in Qatar last year. Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EFE via ZUMA Press
“In a divided world, FIFA and football are uniting,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“The FIFA Council, representing the entire world of football, unanimously agreed to celebrate the centenary of the FIFA World Cup, whose first edition was played in Uruguay in 1930, in the most appropriate way.

“As a result, a celebration will take place in South America and three South American countries — Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay — will organise one match each of the FIFA World Cup 2030. The first of these three matches will of course be played at the stadium where it all began, in Montevideo’s mythical Estádio Centenário, precisely to celebrate the centenary edition of the FIFA World Cup.”

“The FIFA Council also agreed unanimously that the only bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2030 will be the joint bid of Morocco, Portugal and Spain,” the FIFA president added. “Two continents — Africa and Europe — united not only in a celebration of football but also in providing unique social and cultural cohesion. What a great message of peace, tolerance and inclusion.

“In 2030, we will have a unique global footprint, three continents — Africa, Europe and South America — six countries — Argentina, Morocco, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain and Uruguay — welcoming and uniting the world while celebrating together the beautiful game, the centenary and the FIFA World Cup.”

Saudi Arabia has targeted the 2034 edition and Australia also is interested after successfully co-hosting the Women’s World Cup this year with New Zealand.

The FIFA Council’s acceptance of a unified 2030 candidacy still needs formal approval next year at a meeting of the 211 member federations. That should be just a formality.

The 48-team, 104-game tournament scheduled for June-July 2030 is expected to start with games in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay before the action moves to the core host nations Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

The South American co-host bid has been promoted since the 2018 World Cup in Russia and had included Chile, which was not mentioned Wednesday.

Ukraine also was added to the European bid a year ago at a news conference at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland. However, Ukraine has not been mentioned in official comments about the UEFA-backed bid this year.

The first 48-team men’s World Cup will be hosted in 2026 by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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UK, Ireland sole bidder for Euro 2028 after Turkey withdraws




The UK and Ireland will host Euro 2028 – subject to final approval from UEFA’s executive committee next week – after Turkey withdrew its interest.

The five-nation bid is now the only option on the table for the finals in five years’ time after Turkey pulled out of contention for the 2028 finals to focus on a joint bid with Italy for Euro 2032.

UEFA will formally announce the hosts for the two tournaments following a meeting of its executive committee in Switzerland next week.

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