Oceania Football Confederation > News > FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 > Young Ferns’ hopes hinge on key figures

Young Ferns’ hopes hinge on key figures

If they can earn the necessary points, coach Paul Temple and his squad would become the first Kiwi age-group women’s side to progress past the group stages of a major international tournament. The key to doing so is likely to be the form of a handful of important players and oceaniafootball.com has therefore highlighted five figures whose performances will be vital in keeping alive the Young Ferns’ dreams of glory at Azerbaijan 2012.
Lily Alfeld
Goalkeeper Alfeld was one of the stars of New Zealand’s first match and, had it not been for a string of fine saves from the teenage custodian, the score could have been far more heavily weighted in Mexico’s favour. Alfeld was at her best throughout the contest but a pair of stops in the second half were particularly memorable, substitute Samantha Arellano and Taylor Alvarado both being denied in one-on-one situations in quick succession. A hefty defeat would have been harsh on the Young Ferns and coach Paul Temple was no doubt delighted Alfeld was able to keep the score down as a more resounding loss would have been a significant blow to his charges’ confidence levels. The number one for Christchurch club Coastal Spirit is likely to get a chance to shine again on Wednesday as the Young Ferns will meet Japan, who put five goals past Brazil on the opening day.
Hannah Carlsen
The experienced Carlsen is joined by Alfeld and defender Megan Lee as the only returnees from New Zealand’s previous U-17 campaign two years ago in Trinidad and Tobago and, as such, was expected to take up a leadership role within the group. But she will now have to shoulder even more responsibility after being handed the captain’s arm band prior to the team’s arrival in Azerbaijan. Carlsen and defender Catherine Bott shared the captaincy during the Oceania qualifying process but, with Bott missing the Mexico match through injury and in danger of playing no part in the tournament, Carlsen is likely to remain Temple’s on-field leader. Hailing from Auckland’s North Shore, the Lynn Avon United midfielder will have a key role to play in rallying her troops as they look to bounce back from that opening defeat and keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
Megan Lee
The third member of the Young Ferns’ veteran triumvirate, Lee forms part of an experienced spine in the starting line-up with Alfeld and Carlsen and is no less important to the cause, particularly in the absence of Bott, who is regarded as one of the squad’s most accomplished defenders. Lee joined Emily Jensen at the heart of the New Zealand defence against Mexico and, while the victors were restricted mainly to hopeful long-range efforts, goalkeeper Alfeld was exposed on a few occasions and Lee and Jensen will need to tighten up if the Young Ferns are to take the result they need from Japan. West Aucklander Lee is a team mate of Bott and Carlsen at club level – fellow squad member Daisy Cleverley is also part of the Lynn Avon alumni – and that understanding is likely to come in handy against the rampant Japanese. Lee had to hobble off with 20 minutes to go in the Mexico defeat and Temple will have his fingers crossed that she can recover by Wednesday.
Laura Merrin
One of the more unheralded members of Temple’s squad, Merrin is nevertheless a significant component of the Young Ferns’ defence and put in a strong showing in the opening match, making several last-ditch tackles as Mexico launched a series of raids on the New Zealand goal. The left fullback is difficult to miss due to her head of bright blond hair and she is sure to have stuck in the mind of many an opposing winger, who have regularly found the combination of her sharp turn of pace and tenacity hard to get the better of. With the Young Ferns’ defence already depleted by Bott’s absence and Lee also now under an injury cloud, Merrin and fellow fullback Meikayla Moore are likely to come under plenty of pressure against Japan. How they handle that will be an important aspect of New Zealand’s chances of earning a good result.
Briar Palmer
Named player of the tournament in New Zealand’s successful Oceania qualifying campaign, the skilful Palmer is considered the jewel in the crown of the Young Ferns’ offensive riches and her trickery on the left wing is a major asset for Temple. The performance of the Waterside Karori star against Mexico was underwhelming though and she was withdrawn just after the break to make way for Emma Rolston. In fairness, the other members of New Zealand’s attack also struggled to make headway against a resolute Mexican rearguard but more will certainly be expected of Palmer in the Young Ferns’ remaining group games. If she fails to use her impressive technique to provide chances for the likes of striker Martine Puketapu – Temple’s lone ranger up front – then New Zealand could well be heading for an early exit.


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