AUCKLAND - Hannah Wilkinson's second-half goal gave New Zealand a shock 1-0 win over former champions Norway at Eden Park on Thursday as the co-hosts claimed their first ever victory at a Women's World Cup.
The Football Ferns had failed to win a game at their five previous World Cup appearances but Wilkinson fired home from close range from Jacqui Hand's pinpoint cross in the 48th minute to give them the lead.
Norway, champions in 1995, were disappointing and disjointed and rarely looked as if they would get back on level terms.
Their best chance came from a right-footed shot from Tuva Hansen, which ricocheted off the crossbar in the 81st minute.
New Zealand's Ria Percival had the chance to put the game out of reach but her penalty in the 90th minute hit the crossbar.
Norway threw players forward in search of an equaliser but the stout Ferns defence held firm.
"This is not what we had anticipated," said Norway captain Maren Mjelde. "We woke up the last 25 minutes but it was too late."
The crowd of 42,137 - a record for a football match in New Zealand - let out a deafening roar as the match came to an end, with coach Jitka Klimkova burying her face in her hands as her players celebrated.
The win put New Zealand on the right track toward their goal of getting out of the group stage of the tournament. They face debutants the Philippines on Tuesday in a match that had widely been seen as their best chance of winning in Group A.
Co-hosts Australia are set to open their World Cup campaign later on Thursday in Sydney.