The Football Ferns have beaten World No 12 Norway for the first time in almost 40 years.
The World No 19 Ferns defeated the former FIFA Women’s World Cup champions 1-0 this morning in Marbella, Spain in a determined and composed performance.
The win was significant as it was the first time the Ferns had beaten Norway since 1981, and only the second time in seven A internationals. It was the first time they had beaten a higher ranked opposition in four years since they beat Brazil 1-0 away from home in 2015.
Football Ferns Head Coach Tom Sermanni described it as “a fantastic result” as the team gets into the business end of their preparation for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
“Our discipline was excellent,” said Sermanni. “We continued to work hard for each other and our courage to stay in the game and remain in front was superb. It was a phenomenal team performance.”
The Ferns took the lead in the third minute when Rosie White battled hard and made the most of a mix-up at the back. She got on the ball and got her shot away to beat the Norwegian keeper Ingrid Hjelmseth. It was White’s 24th goal for New Zealand in her 99th A International.
“That goal was symptomatic of our performance. Other strikers might have given up or made a half-hearted attempt to get onto the through pass but Rosie kept persevering and there was a little mix up between the defender and the goalkeeper. She snuck in there like a good striker and produced a quality finish. It was a great reward for her determination.”
Norway held the majority of possession but the Ferns were resolute in defence with former captain Abby Erceg and her defensive team-mates Rebekah Stott and Anna Green all delivering decisive interceptions to keep Norway out.
Norway midfielder Caroline Graham Hansen was a constant threat going forward and had a number of chances which she could not convert under the pressure of the Ferns defence.
“Our defence was impressive. We were under some pressure in the second half as they looked for an equaliser. Everybody stood up and worked tirelessly and the effort and concentration was first class.
That was the difference. We worked hard with application and if we keep doing that we will get some more results.”
Ferns keeper Erin Nayler made a telling one handed save in the 82nd minute to deny Guro Reiten and keep a clean sheet. New Zealand held on for a confidence-boosting win ahead of the World Cup.
“Through the 11 players everyone came up big today when they had to. Whether that was strikers trying to get in behind or Erin at the back pulling off a really good save at an important time.”
Sermanni said it was an encouraging performance but there is still plenty of room for improvement as they build towards the FIFA Women’s World Cup in two months’ time.
“We still have work to do. We will look back at the game clinically. Norway had a level of preparation ahead of us and we have tried to bring things together fairly late. We have nine weeks to go and it is vital that we utilise that time as best we can.
“This is good for our confidence. This week has been great in Spain. We have been able to get some quality time on the field and also a real quality international against a top side. When the US comes around we will need some time together to build on this performance.”
The Ferns will take on World No 1 USA, World No 4 England and Wales in their build up to the World Cup in France.
New Zealand 1 (Rosie White 3’)