After a 2-1 win over Switzerland and a 2-2 draw against eventual group winners Japan, New Zealand just needed to avoid defeat to progress to the quarter-finals for the first time at an age-group FIFA women’s tournament and looked relatively comfortable at halftime with close to 70 per cent of possession and the match scoreless.
But once Sofia Huerta stole in between Kiwi goalkeeper Erin Naylor and Rebecca Burrows and edged Mexico ahead two minutes into the second half, the Junior Football Ferns were chasing the game.
Coach Aaron McFarland was forced to roll the dice with substitutions but Mexico ensured the gamble didn’t pay off, striking three times in the final 16 minutes as the game became increasingly stretched.
A deep cross was met at the back post by Natalia Gomez Junco for Mexico’s second in the 74th minute, substitute Yamile Franco headed in from a 85th-minute corner and Olivia Jimenez padded the scoreline with a well-taken fourth goal three minutes from fulltime.
McFarland felt the goal just after halftime changed the game.
“As much as we talk about having a positive mindset, in the back of your mind it’s hard to get rid of that nagging thought telling yourself you just need a draw, so when they score that first goal the mental focus now needs to shift,” he said.
“I didn’t think we were ready to take the game by the scruff of the neck from the outset. We’re happy to keep the ball but at certain times it didn’t feel at times like we had full belief in our own abilities to get on the ball in the final third and make things happen.
“That’ll come with more exposure. Playing more games, more frequently will help our players get over the fear of trying to play that style of football under that sort of pressure.
“I hope people back home have taken notice. There’s huge potential for the women’s game in New Zealand to blossom and there’s a lot of good role models even in this team for young girls to aspire to emulate. Hopefully the positives from this campaign will drive more growth and more success.”
In Thursday’s first two quarter-finals, Mexico will meet Nigeria, who sealed top spot in Group B with a 4-0 win over Italy, and Group A winners Japan, who beat Switzerland 4-0, will take on Group B runners-up Korea Republic, who earned their ticket to Tokyo with a 2-0 win over Brazil.
The final placings in Groups C and D and the make-up of Friday’s second two quarter-finals will be decided on Monday when pool play concludes.
FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012
New Zealand: 0
Mexico: 4 (Sofia HUERTA 47’, Natalia GOMEZ JUNCO 74′, Yamile FRANCO 85′, Olivia JIMENEZ 87′)
Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadium, Kobe
New Zealand: 1-Erin NAYLER (GK), 2-Bridgette ARMSTRONG (12-Steph SKILTON 83’), 3-Rebecca BURROWS, 6-Evie MILLYNN (11-Katie ROOD 76’), 7-Holly PATTERSON, 8-Olivia CHANCE, 10-Kate LOYE, 13-Rosie WHITE (captain), 14-Katie BOWEN, 16-Ashleigh WARD (4-Nadia PEARL 64’), 17-Hannah WILKINSON
Substitutes not used: 5-Tayla O’BRIEN, 9-Georgia BROWN, 15-Tessa BERGER, 18-Caitlin SMALLFIELD, 19-Lucy CARTER, 20-Corina BROWN (GK), 21-Jess REDDAWAY (GK)
Cautions: 14-Katie BOWEN 39’, 16-Ashleigh WARD 45’
Coach: Aaron McFARLAND
Mexico: 1-Cecilia SANTIAGO (GK), 2-Arianna ROMERO, 3-Christina MURILLO, 4-Bianca SIERRA, 5-Valeria MIRANDA, 6-Olivia JIMENEZ, 7-Nayeli RANGEL, 8-Ariana MARTINEZ, 9-Sofia HUERTA, 10-Natalia GOMEZ JUNCO, 19-Tanya SAMARZICH (18-Yamile FRANCO 74’)
Substitutes not used: 11-Chrystal MARTINEZ, 12-Alejandra GUTIERREZ (RGK), 13-Ashley KOTERO, 14-Kenia SANCHEZ, 15-Mariel GUTIERREZ, 16-Amber HERNANDEZ, 17-Amanda PEREZ, 20-Daniela SOLIS, 21-Itzel GONZALEZ (GK)
Coach: Leonardo CUELLAR
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football.
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