Canada emerged triumphant from the opening match of the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, edging out their brave Kiwi hosts by a solitary goal in front of a remarkable crowd of 13,123. Rachel Lamarre scored the fledgling tournament's first-ever goal and, despite New Zealand's valiant efforts, it ultimately proved sufficient to secure all three points.
The hosts, who were dealt a blow when first-choice goalkeeper Charlotte Wood lost her battle for fitness, enjoyed marginally the better of some nervy opening exchanges, with Rosie White registering the first shot on target.
White had been singled out prior to the tournament as a potential match-winner, and she was in the thick of the action once again after 14 minutes, capitalising on a defensive slip only to be denied by a brave diving save from Genevieve Richard. Canada were struggling to cope with the 15-year-old's sheer tenacity and, on 27 minutes, White's bravery in the air released Hannah Wall for a shot that she dragged wide with her weaker foot.
The Canucks' greatest threat lay in the physical strength of striker Tiffany Cameron and supporting midfielder Nkem Ezurike, and the latter might have given the North Americans a 20th-minute lead when she headed wide from an unmarked position. With Canada growing in strength, Ezurike found herself in a goalscoring position once again as half-time approached, but although her sights were in on this occasion, the Kiwis' stand-in keeper Victoria Esson leapt to her left to pull off a superb save.
By this stage, the Canadians had established something of a territorial stranglehold and the goal their play had threatened arrived seven minutes into the second half, Rachel Lamarre firing home from 20 yards at the end of a surging solo run.
New Zealand, to their credit, refused to fold and immediately set about hauling themselves level, with Caitlin Campbell squeezing a shot into the side-netting having cleverly nutmegged her marker. Campbell then rattled the crossbar with a 30-yard free-kick and White cracked a left-foot shot just over as they upped the pressure.
It was all to no avail, however, and New Zealand now know they have a mountain to climb if they are to achieve their aim of becoming the first Kiwi side in history to survive the group stage at a FIFA finals.