He didn’t get the result he was looking for but New Zealand U-20 women’s coach Leon Birnie was hugely encouraged by his team’s performance on Thursday in their 1-0 loss to Mexico in Auckland.
The New Zealand U-20 women’s team, who are preparing for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea later this month, held their own for long periods against their world-class opposition but were undone in the 68th minute when Blanca Maria Solis Rodas headed home from a deep corner.
It was a fair result, with Mexico boasting most of the possession and the attacking chances, but Birnie said it gave his team plenty of belief ahead of the FIFA World Cup where they will meet Ghana, USA and France in pool play.
“It was really promising,” he said.
“We knew that this was going to be a tough fixture and it was exactly that. It was a physical game and Mexico are a quality side. They have drawn with the USA and the positive is that today we competed with them for 90 minutes.
“The girls can hold their head up high and it is obvious to them that they have got a chance in this World Cup.”
The hosts could have and probably should have taken the lead in the 60th minute when Martine Puketapu went one on one with the Mexico keeper but she blazed her shot over the bar. It was New Zealand’s best chance of the match.
“We have talked about being clinical and being ruthless and when you get those chances you have got to take them. We had a good chance to go 1-0, it was a great ball through and Marty had made a good run and next time hopefully she will take that,” Birnie said.
Aside from Puketapu’s chance, Pereira tried her luck from long range with an audacious effort that landed on top of goal and Cleverley hit a couple of early free kicks which caused problems in Mexico’s box but the Kiwis could not get on the end of them.
After the close miss after half time, the visitors had a number of chances at the other end and finally went ahead from a set-piece which frustrated the coach.
“We conceded before that and what I mean by that is the goalie has gone long and we misjudged it at the back when it should have been a simple clearance. We end up giving them a corner kick and they score. It is an easy fix.”
Birnie is hoping to see his side learn quickly from those mistakes as the teams will meet again at QBE Stadium on Sunday in the team’s final hit out before the World Cup.
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football