Former Arsenal striker Amber Hearn led the way with a five-goal haul as the Football Ferns began their campaign with a highly-impressive 14-0 win over tournament underdogs Vanuatu. There wasn’t so much goal-scoring action to enjoy in the afternoon’s second game but there was no lack of drama and excitement as Cook Islands posted a narrow 1-0 win over Tahiti.
Hearn didn’t waste any time getting off the mark in the opening match of the tournament and had a hat-trick to her name within the first 18 minutes. Fellow striker Hannah Wilkinson did her best to keep pace, notching four goals of her own to open her New Zealand account. Age-group internationals Rosie White and Liz Milne also bagged their first senior goals for New Zealand while skipper Hayley Moorwood netted a brace and defender Abby Erceg also got on the score sheet.
“What I was most happy with is that we kept a high standard from start to finish,” coach John Herdman says.
“They played with an intensity and no matter what the score line was they just kept going. That’s the important thing – that they can keep playing at a level they’ll need to if they get to the World Cup in Germany.”
Opposing coach Richard Iwai was disappointed to concede so many goals but thinks the experience will ensure his side do not go down in such a manner again.
“My players have all come from futsal backgrounds so the idea of this tournament is to improve their skills at 11-a-side. We have a long way to go but hopefully they can learn a lot from their experiences this week,” he says.
“I was impressed with Sileye Saina, Jeanine Alatoa and captain Elodie Samuel while our goalkeeper Haia Taiwia made a lot of saves. If the whole team can put in the same effort then we will not lose like that again.”
Young striker Regina Mustonen was the hero for Cook Islands in the next game as her spectacular 15th free kick helped coach Jimmy Katoa’s side to their first ever win over Tahiti at a senior OFC women’s tournament. The French Polynesians put the defence under all sorts of pressure during a thrilling final 10 minutes but Cook Islands managed to hold on for the victory.
“It’s a really great result and I’m pleased for the team,” Katoa says. “There were a lot of good performances and they defended really well during that second half. It’s a very young team but they are starting to mature.”
Group B gets underway tomorrow with an intriguing match-up at 1pm between Papua New Guinea and Fiji – two of the sides expected to challenge New Zealand for the title – while Solomon Islands and Tonga will face each other at 3.30pm.
Both matches take place on the oval ground at North Harbour Stadium.