A series of milestones marked the Football Ferns first outing for 2019, at the inaugural Cup of Nations in Australia, as they build up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.
The side were joined by hosts Australia, Argentina and Korea Republic in the four-team tournament, which the Sam Kerr-captained Matildas holding off the other nations to lift the trophy.
For the Oceania champions, despite two losses and just one win, it was an occasion to mark milestones and begin preparations for a fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance.
The opening match in Sydney was against Australia’s Matilda’s, an occasion which marked the 40th anniversary of the first time New Zealand and Australia played back in 1979.
Tom Sermanni’s side were downed 2-0 by their trans-Tasman rivals, with the sixth-ranked team in the world despite putting in a fantastic shift.
Next up were Argentina, a side the Ferns had only met once before, earning a 1-0 victory at the Peace Queen Cup in Korea in 2008.
Once again New Zealand showed perseverance and high-energy which paid off on this occasion as Katie Rood opened the scoring, before CJ Bott hit a spectacular long-range effort to secure a 2-0 victory – the first win over non-Oceania opponents since 2007.
For Sermanni it was an excellent pay-off for the hard work the players had been putting in.
“It was a little scratchy but the positives are that we won the game and came away with a clean sheet,” Sermanni said.
“But we know we have some work to do because it was still a little rusty.”
As for Bott’s stunner, Sermanni was among those impressed by the defender’s 40-yard rocket.
“It was a fantastic strike and it gave everyone a lift. I think that finished the game off for us in many ways.”
WOAHHH! What a stunning long-range strike from CJ Bott! ?
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) March 3, 2019
Having only entered the fray a few minutes earlier, Bott was almost at a loss for words when it came to describing her first international goal.
“It was a pretty amazing feeling and last night was pretty special. That moment will be in my memory books forever. It is a goal I will always remember.”
Bott said the goal was quite unexpected. Her first touch was a bit heavy and she thought she’d have a crack with an Argentine defender closing in on her. She couldn’t believe it when the ball found the back of the net.
“My job back in the corner is to put the ball back into the danger area and I think I did that plus one.”
The final challenge for the Football Ferns came in the form of 14th ranked side in the world Korea Republic who also had a win and a loss under their belts.
Despite sharing the limited chances, the difference proved to be the quality of Chelsea star Ji So-yun who came off the bench to score a sunning second-half goal for the Koreans. Mira Moon made the game safe after following up a smart save from Erin Nayler to prod home a second.
Once again Sermanni had taken advantage of the three-match tournament to shuffle his starting line-up with only five players keeping their place from the side which defeated Argentina.
Starting the match was a memorable moment for Kete as she brought up 50 caps for New Zealand, after having made a return to action for the side for the first time in seven years earlier in the competition.
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) March 6, 2019
Other milestones included the return of former captain Abby Erceg to international duty, as well as midfielder Katie Duncan who hadn’t appeared since Rio 2016.
The Football Ferns will now look ahead to their next international challenge as the build-up to France 2019 continues, a pair of matches against Norway in Spain in early April.