New Zealand have succumbed to an inspired attacking performance from Mexico at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, losing their opener 5-0 in Amman Jordan on Saturday morning (NZT).
Despite the comprehensive nature of the loss, the Kiwis – searching for the country’s second-ever win at this tournament – began brightly and enjoyed the better of the opening 20 minutes.
They went on to share possession fairly equally throughout the match – the statistics were close to 50/50 – but the finishing ability of the rampant Mexicans came to the fore as New Zealand struggled to turn their time with the ball into clear-cut chances.
Their cause wasn’t helped by a virus that swept through the camp on the eve of the match, leaving at least two of the starting line-up – Nicole Mettam and Malia Steinmetz – battling to get through the game.
But captain Michaela Foster had no qualms with the result and was full of praise for an opposition that took firm control after earning an 18th-minute lead.
“We expected Mexico to be that good and we knew it would be a big challenge for us,” she said.
“We were prepared for it but I guess we just couldn’t quite stop them. They’re a great team and we can’t deny that. We all put our heart and soul into it but just couldn’t come away with what we wanted.”
There were few signs early on of what was later to come from Mexico with New Zealand enjoying the better of the initial stages and looking the more accomplished side.
The front three of Sam Tawharu, Jacqui Hand and Hannah Blake had been lethal in Oceania qualifying and they were a threat, their pace and movement nearly getting them in on goal on several occasions. But the final pass wasn’t quite there and that would be a recurring theme as New Zealand were able to muster only one shot on target over the 90 minutes.
In contrast, Mexico carved out eight such opportunities and required only one to take the lead, albeit against the run of play at that point. New Zealand were comfortable until a Mexican attack forced goalkeeper Anna Leat into an outstanding one-handed save and Daniela Espinosa was well-placed to head in the rebound.
Blake tried to respond to falling behind in the 25th minute but sliced her strike wide of the top corner from the edge of the area and the Oceania champions found themselves two goals down ten minutes later. A deep cross reached Jacqueline Ovalle at the far post and she drilled a powerful low shot past Leat to put Mexico in the box seat heading towards half-time.
New Zealand needed to get one back before the break and very nearly did so in stoppage time, Tawharu having what proved to be their best chance of the match but being denied at point-blank range by a superb Miriam Aguirre save.
Coach Turnbull must have then wondered if it was not going to be his side’s day and those concerns came to fruition as Mexico claimed full command in an impressive second-half display.
The third goal came via a corner in the 69th-minute, Leat and her defenders not able to deal with a deep delivery and allowing Jimena Lopez to head in off her shoulder.
Turnbull had emptied the bench by the 72nd minute as he looked to mastermind a comeback but goal-scoring opportunities were still proving hard to come by and it was Mexico that added further entries to the scoresheet.
A pair of substitutes both made an immediate impact for Mexico, Veronica Avalos turning the ball home on 81 minutes before the goal of the day arrived late on when a spectacular Celiana Torres strike fizzed into the far corner.
New Zealand will now look to re-group and earn the positive result needed to keep their knockout hopes alive against Spain on Tuesday morning (NZT).
“I don’t think we need to change anything leading up to the next game, we just have to take the positives we can from today and then clear our minds of it,” Foster said.
“I thought our combinations were good and that we showed an intent to play our game. We need to rest and recover properly and focus on Spain now.”
Mexico 5 (Daniela Espinosa 18′, Jacqueline Ovalle 35′, Jimena Lopez 69′, Veronica Avalos 81′, Celiana Torres 87′)
New Zealand 0
New Zealand: 1. Anna Leat (GK), 2. Claudia Bunge (15. Fran Grange 52’), 3. Ally Toailoa, 4. Rebecca Lake, 5. Michaela Foster (c), 6. Nicole Mettam, 7. Hannah Blake, 8. Malia Steinmetz (17. Emma Main 60’), 9. Sam Tawharu (13. Sarah Krystman 72’), 10. Grace Jale, 11. Jacqui Hand
Cautions: 4. Rebecca Lake 49’, Ally Toailoa 73’
Substitutes not used: 12. Nadia Olla (GK), 14. Amber Phillips, 16. ‘Alosi Bloomfield, 18. Rose Morton, 19. Maggie Jenkins, 20. Saskia Vosper, 21. Ashleigh Emery (GK)
Story courtesy New Zealand Football