‘We’ll be back’ – New Zealand fans defiant after World Cup exit

'We'll be back' - New Zealand fans defiant after World Cup exit

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New Zealand's players react after their team's exit from the Fifa Women's World Cup
New Zealand are the first host country to be knocked out during the group stages at the Fifa Women’s World Cup, despite picking up more points (4) in 2023 than in their previous five World Cup campaigns combined (3)

There was silence inside Shed 6 on Wellington’s waterfront when the full-time whistle signalled the end of New Zealand’s Women’s World Cup dream.

And then a round of applause from the hundreds of locals watching on a big screen in New Zealand’s capital.

Having claimed a historic first win over Norway on the opening night of the tournament, the co-hosts exited the competition at 20:58 local time on Sunday after a tension-filled night.

Following a goalless draw with Switzerland, the Football Ferns finished on four points from three games – the same number as Norway, who hammered the Philippines 6-0 in their final group match.

Norway’s superior goal difference saw them advance along with Group A winners Switzerland to the knockout stage.

Fans banged on the tables and roared when the fourth official signalled a minimum of eight minutes of stoppage time in the New Zealand-Switzerland match.

And cheers and whistles filled the air when Football Ferns keeper Victoria Esson went up for a 96th-minute corner – and headed wide.

Even Japan fans, who are in the city for Monday’s Group C encounter with Spain (08:00 BST kick-off), cheered inside the indoor fan park each time New Zealand surged forward.

In the end, there was a huge sense of disappointment mixed with pride as the Football Ferns fell agonisingly short.

“There are plenty more World Cups to come and New Zealand’s women are only getting better and better at football,” Terry Lynch, who watched the match on the big screen with his son Dante, said.

“Huge credit to the Football Ferns because I thought they played terrific.

“Unfortunately goals are what wins matches and we didn’t get one. You’re up against the best in the world and you have got to be on form all the time.

“But as much as you can say there is disappointment, there is a lot of pride that the ladies gave it their all.

“I cannot wait to see where we will be in four years’ time when the next World Cup takes place. We’ll be back.”

Annie Kennedy said the Football Ferns had changed opinions in New Zealand despite going out.

“It’s sad that we are out, but I’m really filled with hope,” she added.

“There was such a sense of complacency in the country that New Zealand were not going to do well and wasn’t going to achieve anything in this tournament.

“But that first win over Norway completely flipped the mindset of everybody into thinking ‘this could be a thing’. There is hope and belief that wasn’t there before. So I see that as a huge success.”

Fans at an indoor fan festival in Wellington, New Zealand, watch the co-hosts against Switzerland in the Women's World Cup
Fans packed an indoor fan festival in Wellington, New Zealand, to watch the co-hosts against Switzerland

Annie said she was “excited” about the future for the Football Ferns.

“There’s a few experienced players in the team who will be gone soon,” she added. “I think this next period of time before the next Women’s World Cup is going to be really critical and really exciting.”

Following New Zealand’s exit, Mandy Lewis said she would be cheering on another team at the tournament but had not decided who.

“Definitely not Australia,” she added.

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