New Zealand, the World Cup’s co-host, has a chance to take another big step forward on Tuesday.
Days after it earned the first World Cup victory in the team’s history, New Zealand knows a win over the Philippines in Wellington would effectively assure that the Football Ferns, as the team is known, will reach the knockout rounds for the first time.
In Tuesday’s other games, Colombia and South Korea will become the last of the 32 teams to take the field, and Norway — beaten by New Zealand in its opener — will try to right itself against Switzerland.
Colombia vs. South Korea
Colombia is coming off a strong performance in the Copa América Championship, where it beat Argentina in the semifinals and fell to Brazil in the final, 1-0. Those results suggest a readiness to contend on the world stage.
But that competitiveness may have gone too far in a recent exhibition against Ireland: That match was called off after 20 minutes for what the Irish labeled “overly physical” play from the Colombians. Colombia rejected that characterization and defended its style; it said the Irish simply “preferred not to continue playing.”
Colombia will face South Korea, the runner-up to China in the 2022 Asian Cup, on Tuesday in Sydney, Australia, (10 p.m. Monday Eastern time). The South Koreans have made it to the knockout stages once in three previous World Cup appearances, in 2015. Four years ago, the Koreans lost all three of their games.
New Zealand vs. Philippines
New Zealand’s players shocked many people — including themselves — by upsetting Norway, 1-0, in the opening match of the World Cup.
Now, the Ferns find themselves in new territory: in a favorable position for a path beyond the group stage, a checkpoint not reached in five previous trips to the tournament.
The biggest obstacle to advancing, in fact, may be behind them. Norway entered the tournament 12th in FIFA rankings, whereas the Philippines is 46th. New Zealand is 26th, but now riding a wave of so-called Fern Fever, and looking forward to another night in front of a friendly crowd.
The Philippines lost, 2-0, to Switzerland in its World Cup debut. Its team draws heavily from the United States — 18 players on the squad’s 23-women roster, in fact, were born in America — and makes no excuses about that.
“I don’t really care where they’re born,” the team’s Australian coach, Alen Stajcic, said. “If they have Philippines in their heart and in their blood, and they’re good at football, then they’re eligible for our team.
“They all play for their flag, they all play for their country, they all play for the people in the Philippines, wherever they reside.”
Switzerland vs. Norway
Norway is looking to bounce back from its opening loss and probably needs a win against Switzerland, and then another against the Philippines, to ensure it goes through to the knockouts.
The Norwegians are led by Ada Hegerberg, the 28-year-old striker — and former world player of the year — who sat out the 2019 World Cup in protest of her federation’s treatment of women’s soccer. Hegerberg, one of the best players in the game, was absent from the national team for five years before returning for the European Championship last summer. But she was surprisingly ineffective against New Zealand, and that won’t do against the Swiss.
Switzerland dominated the Philippines in their opener, outshooting their opponents by 17-3. They are unlikely to have the same advantage over the Norwegians. Ramona Bachmann, who plays her club soccer for Paris St.-Germain, was the standout player in her team’s opening win. She will need a similar performance today to keep Switzerland moving forward.