The New Zealand U-20 women’s side will travel to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea high on confidence after a spirited performance in their 3-1 loss to Mexico on Sunday.
The Leon Birnie coached side went down to the highly fancied rivals 1-0 in their first fixture on Thursday evening, but in both games Birnie was proud to see the young side prove that they can compete with world-class teams for long periods.
“It might sound silly but that was a far better performance than the first game,” he said.
“For the first 70 minutes we played really well. We wanted the ball a lot more. We were much more constructive off the ball and played well.”
The visitors went ahead in the 27th minute when Jaqueline Crowther made the most of some lacklustre defending at the back to hammer home.
New Zealand’s response was immediate. Just over one minute later, Football Ferns striker Jasmine Pereira got in behind the defence and her shot was well blocked and landed at Martine Puketapu’s feet who curled in a long range effort to level the scores.
“You know they score and we could go one of two ways but straight away the girls were ready to go and they put it straight in the back of the net after less than two minutes,” Birnie said.
“It was really good to score and from that point it was a really even game which was encouraging. If we go back to the start of the campaign we have come a long way. We are in a much better space,” he added.
The game remained pretty even for the next 30 minutes with plenty of chances at both ends of the pitch before the visitors finished the stronger of the two sides.
In the 70th minute Mexico earned a penalty when Maria Sanchez went on a searching run into the box and was brought down by Sophie Stewart-Hobbs. Eva Gonzalez stepped up to take the spot kick but her effort hit the post and the rebound shot went over the crossbar.
The goal was coming though and 12 minutes later Mexico had the lead. It took a great strike from Mexico’s Nancy Antonio, who hammered home from the edge of the box.
New Zealand, with weary legs, chased the equaliser and the visitors scored on the counterattack. Blanca Solis, who came on as a substitute at 85 minutes, scored from close range after poor defending in the box on the stroke of full time.
Birnie said there were a number of easy fixes but the main message he gave his team following the match was they have to play at that level for 90 minutes if they want results at the World Cup.
“We have a few things that we think we can tidy up pretty quickly,” he said.
“We know that we have to make sure we are not only competing for 70 minutes. Today will be a good learning for the girls.”
The New Zealand U-20 Women’s team will face Ghana, USA and France in Group C at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, kicking off 13 November in Port Moresby.
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football