New Zealand faced an unexpected setback, becoming the first host nation to be eliminated from the Women's World Cup at the group stages. Their aspirations of a successful campaign were dashed after a goalless draw against Switzerland, leaving them without a spot in the last 16. The Football Ferns needed a victory against their Swiss opponents, but despite the support of an enthusiastic crowd at the Dunedin Stadium, they struggled to break through the cagey Swiss defense and create meaningful chances on goal.
The turn of events also saw Norway dominating the other Group A game, securing a resounding 6-0 victory against the Philippines, which propelled them to the knockout rounds as the group winner. For New Zealand, the tournament had begun on a high note, with a stunning 1-0 triumph over Norway in the opening match, marking their first-ever World Cup win. However, the excitement from that historic victory gradually faded in subsequent group matches.
Following the shocking defeat against the Philippines in their next fixture, the Football Ferns faced an uphill battle to assert their authority over Switzerland, but they were unable to rise to the occasion. The pressure mounted as they sought a decisive victory, and New Zealand goalkeeper Victoria Esson even joined the attack during corner kicks and freekicks in the closing minutes, demonstrating their determination to find the winner.
Despite the disappointment of elimination, the New Zealand players displayed commendable sportsmanship, huddling on the pitch after the match, and captain Ali Riley delivered a heartfelt speech to her tearful teammates. The result meant Switzerland progressed as the group winner, while Norway advanced as the runner-up ahead of New Zealand on goal difference.
In contrast, Norway celebrated their successful recovery after an initial defeat, securing a convincing 6-0 win against the Philippines. This impressive performance showcased their potential to make a deep run in the tournament. Sophie Román Haug's second hattrick of the competition, along with goals from Caroline Graham Hansen, Guro Reiten, and an Alicia Barker own-goal, ensured a comprehensive victory for Norway.
Meanwhile, the Philippines' Sarina Bolden, who scored the team's historic first World Cup goal in their match against New Zealand, expressed her pride in the team's accomplishments. Despite Sunday's loss, she shared her gratitude for making it to the World Cup and emphasized the importance of building on this invaluable experience. Filipino supporters added to the heartwarming atmosphere, passionately chanting 'Filipinas' throughout the game against Norway, making the players feel at home on the world stage.
Although New Zealand's journey at the Women's World Cup concluded earlier than expected, the tournament continues to captivate audiences worldwide with its thrilling matches and inspiring displays of sportsmanship and resilience from teams representing different corners of the globe. The dedication and determination exhibited by all teams, including the Football Ferns, remind us of the sheer beauty and unifying power of the beautiful game of football.