AUCKLAND – A 10-women Junior Football Ferns were just seconds away from earning an historic quarterfinal at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup until a 94th minute equaliser sent England through at their expense with 1-1 draw in Santiago.
New Zealand had taken a 27th minute lead through Sarah McLaughlin’s 22 yard drive and even after the 70th minute dismissal of Ferns’ captain Katie Hoyle for a second caution, a heroic rearguard action looked set to secure victory and a place in the last eight – a first for a New Zealand team at a football World Cup .
But into the fourth minute of injury time, Toni Duggan found just enough space to fire a curling shot in off the upright to send the English through and the kiwis home in the cruellest of fashion.
Head coach John Herdman said his side were devastated, especially after being close enough victory to believe their luck was about to change following a last minute defeat to Nigeria to begin the tournament.
“Once England hit the bar I thought it wasn’t going to go their way,” Herdman said.
“Then the fourth official signalled for five minutes of extra time and I got a horrible gut feeling of ‘here we go again.’
“But they put one wide and then another and you start to think it’s our time.”
“The girls were just brilliant. Their work-rate and their courage took us close to a hard-fought 1-0 win over England.
“They had one hand on the flag of a New Zealand footballing Everest and were 30 seconds away from planting it.”
England finish second in Group A – one point ahead of New Zealand – and now meet USA in the quarterfinal after the Americans lost to China on Thursday but still claimed top spot in Group B. Nigeria meet France in the other crossover.
Victory was always likely to be the result New Zealand needed to progress, and Nigeria taking a 15th minute lead over Chile in Temuco –a match played concurrently with New Zealand’s – the chance of the Junior Ferns qualifying with a draw looked to be removed, something the Africans confirmed with their second goal just before halftime.
New Zealand showed attacking intent from the outset, with Caitlin Campbell trying her luck from distance after a matter of seconds, while Rosie White and Hannah Wall had headed chances at either end of the first half that went wide under defensive pressure.
After 15 minutes, and English corner sailed untouched across the face of New Zealand’s goal, and on the half hour, another England set-piece ended with Charlotte Wood making a sharp save from Claire Rafferty.
McLaughlin thought she was free on goal in the 27th minute but was called back for offside, although her shot was hit weakly at the keeper.
But England hit the resulting free-kick straight back to McLaughlin, who needed no second invitation to free herself for a 22-yard drive that left Rebecca Spencer with little chance.
Hoyle’s second yellow card for a mistimed tackle with 20 minutes remaining – the first caution was for a seemingly innocuous shirt tug five minutes earlier – changed the complexion of the match.
A minute earlier, Herdman had introduced midfielder Grace Vincent and switched to a 4-5-1 formation to tighten his side’s defensive shape, but with a player up, and chasing a draw to make the last eight, England lifted gears forcing a series of corners, at which New Zealand lived dangerously.
Abby Erceg’s foot and the cheek of Bridgette Armstrong both kept shots out, while the crossbar was all that denied Natasha Dowie the goal England desperately needed.
England continued to threaten – primarily through Toni Duggan, who couldn’t stretch to connect with what would have been a free header and then was denied by a brave challenge by Wood seconds later.
Heading into time-added-on, shots to Rachel Williams and Duggan sailed inches wide of Wood’s right-hand post, and Wood needed a crucial touch to steer a cross away from Dowie’s head.
But for all the Ferns bravery and application, Duggan’s dagger levelled the scores and left New Zealand with little time to find a winner.
With four points, the Junior Ferns finish with New Zealand’s best return from 10 senior or age-group World Cups, and with just nine of the starting 11 eligible for the next U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany, the future looks even brighter.
“The girls need to bottle up these experiences, as cruel as they might feel,” Herdman said “for it will only make them stronger in their next competition.”
FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008
New Zealand 1 (Sarah McLAUGHLIN 27’)
England 1 (Toni DUGGAN 90+4)
Thursday 27 November (NZT)
Estadio Municipal de La Florida
New Zealand: 1-Charlotte WOOD (GK), 2-Caitlin CAMPBELL (18-Grace VINCENT 69), 3-Anna GREEN, 4-Katie HOYLE, 5-Bridgette ARMSTRONG, 6-Abby ERCEG, 8-Betsy HASSETT, 11-Hannah WALL, 15-Elizabeth MILNE, 19-Sarah McLAUGHLIN (9-Renee LEOTA 69), 20-Rosie WHITE (14-Merissa SMITH 90+5).
Substitutes not used: 10-Annalie LONGO, 12-Chelsey WOOD, 13-Victoria ESSON (GK), 16-Briony FISHER, 17 Nicole STRATFORD, 21-Rebekah BROOK (GK).
Unavailable: 7-Ria PERCIVAL (suspended)
Coach: John HERDMAN
Yellow Cards: Katie HOYLE 65’,70’;
Red Cards: Katie HOYLE 70’;
England: 1-Rebecca SPENCER (GK), 2-Stephanie HOUGHTON, 3-Claire RAFFERTY, 4-Danielle BUET, 5-Fern WHELAN (20-Jade MOORE 89), 6-Sophie BRADLEY, 7-Toni DUGGAN (17-Rebecca HALL 90+5), 8-Remi ALLEN, 11-Jessica CLARKE, 12-Chelsea WESTON, 14-Brooke CHAPLEN (10-Rachel WILLIAMS 56).
Substitutes not used: 9-Natasha DOWIE, 13-Ashley BAKER (GK), 15-Gilly FLAHERTY, 16-Kerys HARROP, 18-Michelle HINNIGAN, 19-Sophie WALTON, 21-Helen ALDERSON (GK).
Coach: Mo MARLEY
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Referee: Sachiko BABA (JPN)
Assistant Referee 1: Shiho AYUKAI (JPN)
Assistant Referee 2: Mana DZODOPE (TOG)
Fourth Official: Bentla D COTH (IND)
Group A Standings:
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New Zealand Coach John Herdman reacts to Englands 94th minute equaliser
England players celebrate following the final whistle