Host New Zealand, Switzerland look to advance to World Cup knockouts on TSN
The final opening match of the 2023 Women's World Cup comes from Sydney Football Stadium as Colombia and Korea Republic wrap up Matchday 1 for Group H.
You can catch Colombia vs. Korea Republic in Group H action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Sydney on Monday with coverage getting underway at 9:45pm et/6:45pm pt on TSN1/4/5, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
Group H's earlier match saw powerhouse Germany rout Morocco 6-0 in the biggest drubbing of the tournament thus far, so you can forgive both Las Cafateras and the Taeugeuk Ladies if they believe they're playing for second place in the group already. If that's the case, then, this opening match is of paramount importance for both sides. Colombia and Korea Republic have only made it out of the group stage once at a World Cup and, coincidentally, it was at Canada 2015 for both. A crucial 2-1 over Spain in their final group-stage match allowed Korea Republic to advance as runners-ups in Group E, while Colombia advanced as one of the three best third-place finishers. Both teams saw their tournaments end in the Round of 16, though, with Colombia falling to eventual champions, the United States, and Korea Republic losing to France.
Opening matches of the World Cup have been especially unkind to the Taegeuk Ladies. In their three prior appearances, Korea Republc have not only lost all three openers, but have also failed to score in each. In fact, that victory over Spain in Ottawa is their lone World Cup win to date in 10 matches. Las Cafateras' lone World Cup victory in two previous appearances also came in 2015 when they upset France, 2-0, in Moncton, NB in their second group-stage game. Like Korea Republic, Colombia has never won an opening match at a World Cup, but they did manage a 1-1 draw with Spain in their 2015 opener.
“Colombia are a very aggressive, very physical side, but they’re also very balanced," Korea manager Colin Bell said. "They have Linda Caicedo, of course, and she’s a massive player for them, a real talent and known all over the world. The important thing is to win this first game. After that, we’ll see.”
Caicedo could be one of the stars of the tournament. Only 18, the Real Madrid forward will be playing in her third FIFA tournament in a year, having already suited up for Las Cafateras' under-17 and under-20 sides in 2022. In 13 senior appearances for Colombia, Caicedo has three goals.
Colombia is also prepared for what Korea Republic has to offer.
“We’ve been watching videos of Korea’s games, and were told to focus on the No. 10, so we’ve got to take good care of her," midfielder Marcela Restrepo said. "She’s their main weapon. We need to keep up the pressure, rotating if possible, but more than anything we have to focus on ourselves and our own job. We’re ready for anything.”
That No. 10 is, of course, Ji So-yun. The 32-year-old Ji is a six-time Women's Super League winner from her time at Chelsea and is the Taegeuk Ladies' all-time leading scorer with 67 goals in 145 appearances. Getting Ji going could be the key to Korea Republic reaching the knockouts again.
Already flying after winning their opening match in front of delirious home fans, New Zealand could be truly in dreamland on Tuesday. A win over the Philippines in Wellington will put the Football Ferns into the knockout round for the first time ever.
You can catch New Zealand vs. the Philippines in Group A action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Wellington on Tuesday with coverage getting underway at 1:15am et/10:15pm pt on TSN1/4/5, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
In their 16th ever World Cup match last Thursday, New Zealand picked up their first ever World Cup win to open this year's tournament in a stunning 1-0 upset over Group A favourites Norway. Melbourne City forward Hannah Wilkinson's 48th-minute strike was the difference between the two sides.
“This is the best day of my life,” Wilkinson said after her winner. “The absolute number one. Without a doubt. It was the stuff of dreams. It was beyond those dreams, actually. The goal is the best moment of my life. What a ball. It was amazing, she couldn’t have placed it any better. What an amazing feeling.”
Matchday 2 against the Philippines will require balance from Jitka Klimkova's side. On the one hand, all of the emotion and positive momentum built from that victory can be useful tools to carry into their second match, but on the other, New Zealand must be mindful of a letdown against a Philippines side that would love nothing more than to bring the Football Ferns back down to earth.
“We know our job isn’t done yet,” Brighton centre-back Rebekah Stott said. “We enjoyed the moment, and I think it was right for us to do that, but the focus moves on the next morning. “One thing’s for sure: we won’t underestimate the Philippines. They’re a good team with a good coach and I have no doubts they’ll be really organized and tough to play against.”
Making their first ever World Cup appearance, the Philippines fell 2-0 in their opener to Switzerland. Just as there will be impetus from the Football Ferns to use this second match to advance to the knockouts, Alen Stajcic and his team know a loss here will end their World Cup dream.
Stajcic hopes his team will use the hostile atmosphere to their advantage.
"You have to embrace it," Stajcic said of playing in Wellington. "It's a brilliant occasion for football and New Zealand and for our team and for our country as well. To be playing in front of such a big crowd and TV audience is a really special moment, and one that they'll cherish for the rest of their lives. So you wanna go out there and give it your best shot. So I think that as motivating as it is for New Zealand, I think it is for our team, as well."
Upset by the Football Ferns in the opening match of the tournament, Norway's World Cup could be over prematurely if they don't get back on track in a hurry in what will be a tough matchup with fellow UEFA side Switzerland, victors in their opener against the Philippines. Tournament winners in 1995, the Grasshoppers have failed to reach the knockouts only once in their previous eight World Cup appearances, but they're in danger of doing just that again.
You can catch Switzerland vs. Norway in Group A action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Hamilton on Tuesday with coverage getting underway at 3:45am et/12:15am pt on TSN1/4, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
La Nati manager Inka Grings says her team will approach the match with self-assurance, but are well aware of what Norway brings to the table.
“For me, Norway are still one of the big favourites with the players they have, so I’m expecting a very intense game," Grings said. "We saw where their weaknesses are and what they don’t particularly enjoy against New Zealand. They didn’t really like the aggression that New Zealand showed over 90 minutes. We can only get the upper hand if we stay compact while being aggressive. We know that the [Group A] situation is very dangerous, but it could also give us a chance to wrap things up. Although we’re aware of the challenge, we’ll go into the game with plenty of confidence."
In the other dugout, Grasshoppers manager Hege Riise saw a lot she didn't like from her team against New Zealand.
“You could see that we didn’t feel comfortable on the ball and didn’t pick each other out as well as we usually do," Riise said. "We have players who are good with the ball at their feet who then became hesitant, which meant we never found our rhythm and every 50:50 situation went New Zealand’s way."
Switzerland and Norway have met on four previous occasions, but never in a major tournament. La Nati holds a 2-1-1 edge all-time. Another win against the Grasshoppers will put Switzerland into the World Cup knockouts for a second time.