- New Zealand won their first Women’s World Cup point in 2011
- They had been 2-0 down to Mexico as late as the 90th minute
- John Herdman: “For us, this is like winning the World Cup”
Played eight, lost eight. That was New Zealand’s depressing record going into their final 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ match against Mexico. With 90 minutes showing on the clock – and their opponents 2-0 up – a ninth straight defeat seemed inevitable.
What followed was something of a fairy tale. It began in the final few seconds of the regulation 90, when captain Rebecca Smith bulleted home a header that, in the match commentary, was dubbed “a consolation goal”.
It proved, of course, to be so much more significant, setting up a breathless finale in which Hannah Wilkinson volleyed a dramatic 94th-minute equaliser.
That goal from New Zealand’s teenage substitute, still an amateur player at the time, secured her country’s first-ever point at a Women’s World Cup. And yet, historic as the result was, it was the manner in which it was achieved that left everyone in the Kiwi camp brimming with pride.
“To win our first point in this way, for us, is like winning the World Cup,” said John Herdman, the team’s then coach. “It’s just wonderful for this 19-year-old to come off the bench and convert the last chance in a World Cup match. Not many kids her age will get to experience something like that.”
Wilkinson, who is currently battling back from serious injury in the hope of playing at a third Women’s World Cup at France 2019, admitted at the time that she “kind of lost it for a moment” in the aftermath of her historic strike. “I can’t put into words what it means to score a goal like this,” she added.
In such circumstances, and having represented their country with such grit and pride, there was only one way for this New Zealand team to celebrate. And so it was that the legendary Haka was given its first-ever airing at a Women’s World Cup.
As Smith, the team’s goalscoring skipper, explained: “Doing that at the end was our way of saluting the fans who had travelled so far to see us.”
It was a fitting way to cap a momentous result, and one of the most memorable comebacks in Women’s World Cup history.