AUCKLAND – A 0-2 defeat to Finland on Wednesday night in Guangzhou, China ensured the Football Ferns finished winless in their Four Nations campaign, but their coach believes the tour’s long-term benefits would prove invaluable.
After a lifeless and scoreless first half, the Scandinavians – ranked seven places above New Zealand in the world rakings – scored twice after the break to finish their tournament on a high.
China and South Korea, who each beat New Zealand and Finland in the first two rounds, were due to meet overnight to decide the Four Nations title.
New Zealand coach John Herdman said a couple of errors again cost his side but his frustration was mitigated by the opportunity to size up young players as he begins to build a side for the 2011 Women’s World Cup and 2012 Olympics.
“It was pretty evenly matched game with each side cancelling the other out and neither side able to dominate. It looked like it was going to be a real solid defensive effort but we just lost concentration,” Herdman said.
“We made a few changes after the first goal, and it wasn’t until Annalie Longo and Betsy Hassett moved into central midfield that we began to look like the ‘new’ New Zealand we’re aiming to become.
“Until then we got drawn into playing Finland at their own game. They’re direct and like to move the ball long from the fullbacks or central defenders – it reminded me of our team at the 2007 World Cup.
“But in the last 25 minutes with our young players like Longo, Hassett, Wall, White and McLaughlin leading the attack we looked our most threatening.”
Eleven of the 18-strong Football Ferns squad were selected from the New Zealand U-20 World Cup squad, and while players like Abby Erceg, Ria Percival and Katie Hoyle are already long-established in the senior side, Herdman says the newer players have not missed the chance to push claims for consideration in his long-term plan.
“The beauty of this tour is we’ve been able to give promising young players enough game time for them to show us what they’ve got over three internationals
“Hannah Wall deserves a mention for an impressive debut tour and it’s been a breakthrough trip for Betsy Hassett who’s shown her ability in both the centre and on the right of midfield and now is a key part of the squad.
“We’ve also had the opportunity to introduce players like 15-year-old Rosie White into senior football, and time will show how much impact that has on her game, and our future.
“We’ve immersed these young players in a new level of football and been able to discover what they need technically, tactically and even physiologically to build on their experience.”
Herdman was expected to name an extended 30 player Football Ferns training squad in late January, and select 18 of those players in February to travel to the eight-nation Cyprus Cup in March.
Four Nations Tournament
January 14, 2009
Football Ferns 0 Finland 2
New Zealand: Jenny BINDON (GK), Ria PERCIVAL, Abby ERCEG, Kristy HILL, Anna GREEN, Betsy HASSETT, Hayley MOORWOOD (Captain / Caitlin CAMPBELL 60), Katie HOYLE (Hannah WALL 52), Kirsty YALLOP (Annalie LONGO 57), Amber HEARN (Sarah McLAUGHLIN 73), Emma KETE (Rosie WHITE 33).
Substitutes not used: Aroon CLANSEY (RGK), Elizabeth MILNE.
Head Coach: John Herdman