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Momentum builds as New Zealand beat Colombia

Betsy Hassett capped a sweeping counterattack – that started with goalkeeper Jenny Bindon and involved Ali Riley, Ria Percival, Sarah Gregorius and Kirsty Yallop and along the way – with a cool lofted finish over the advancing Colombia goalkeeper Sandra Sepulved in the 70th minute.
New Zealand could have been comfortably ahead at halftime with striker Sarah Gregorius proving a handful for the Colombian defence and drawing a pair of excellent saves from Sepulved and firing a third shot that deflected just past the outstretched boot of Hannah Wilkinson.
After a 2-0 win over Wales on Thursday, New Zealand top the standings of the four nation tournament, two points ahead of Denmark who beat Wales 3-0 in the day’s other match. The two team square off on Tuesday morning (NZT).
The victories over Wales and Colombia are the first consecutive wins for the Football Ferns over non-Oceania opposition in 30 years.
New Zealand coach John Herdman says the back-to-back wins have added real impetus to the Football Ferns build-up nine days out from their opening Women’s World Cup game against Japan, although this morning’s result was particularly satisfying.
“It’s the right time to be peaking and it’s important that we start to build momentum pre-World Cup. Colombia are a World Cup team and to get a result is a signal that we’re on the move,” Herdman said.
“The main thing today is that we have faced a different type of opposition to what used to. We’re used to facing the structured games of the Asians and European nations but the Colombians typically rely on individual flair and are a bit unorthodox.
“What was really pleasing today is the girls kept a clean sheet, kept their composure and realistically could have run away with the game. We should have been two or three up at halftime.”
The performance was also a positive pointer for New Zealand’s final group game against Mexico who Herdman believed would play a similar unpredictable style.
“Colombia are a very similar team to Mexico. They are a team that transition very quickly but through individual skill, not the patterned play that you’d see from certain other teams. The win is a good sign. We created some great chances and restricted them to a couple of speculative efforts in the first half.
The win was soured by an ankle injury to Betsy Hassett from a crunching tackle towards the end of the match. The midfielder had dictated play to that point but was forced to leave the field will miss the final match against Denmark.
While the full extent of Hassett’s injury is yet to be ascertained, there are also slight concerns over Sarah Gregorius (hamstring) and Amber Hearn (groin) and a balanced approached f=would be adopted for the tournament decider.
“We’re sitting top of the table heading into the final game. The players want to win and there’ll be pressure on the coaching staff to keep pushing through with what we think is the best eleven. But we need to be careful with such a tight turnaround, a few niggles and the big prize around the corner. We may have to use more of the wider squad and give other players an opportunity.”
On a day for team milestones, veteran midfielder Hayley Moorwood set a new individual record for Football Ferns appearances in ‘A’ internationals, coming off the bench in the second half to earn her 65th cap and help close out the result.
For more details visit New Zealand Football’s NEW Football Ferns website

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