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NZF Media: Long wait comes to a head

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Football Ferns have waited a long time to make history by winning their first ever game at a FIFA Women’s World Cup and the early hours of tomorrow morning (NZT) against Cameroon would be an ideal moment to finally make that breakthrough.

Aside from getting a winless World Cup streak that has now stretched to 14 games off their backs, a maiden victory would likely be enough to create another piece of history - a place in the promised land of the Round of 16.

No team from New Zealand of either gender has ever progressed from pool play at a senior World Cup and the Ferns may be able to pull that off with a win over Cameroon. A one-goal winning margin could prove enough for them to make it through as one of the best third-placed sides but progression would be guaranteed with a two-goal victory.

The various permutations have been worked through breathlessly by many onlookers over the last few days but Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni hasn’t been among those getting their calculators out.

"Everything else is out of our control and I would get mixed up with all that anyway," he laughs.

"There’s no point in looking around at who is playing who and all that kind of stuff. It’s just a case of us focusing on getting a result against Cameroon."

After being kept scoreless in their two previous matches, the first task for the Ferns is to find the net and midfielder Olivia Chance says composure will be key in doing so.

"You need to score goals to win anyway so nothing changes really," she says.

"I think it’s just about keeping to the game plan and being comfortable. The goals will come as long as we keep the ball and make chances."

The 25-year-old could have an important role to play in that as she has come as close as anyone to breaking New Zealand’s duck at this tournament. Early on in the opening match against the Netherlands, Chance hit a near pin-point shot onto the underside of the cross bar, only to watch it somehow bounce away from goal.

That was one of several opportunities carved out by the Ferns in an impressive performance but sights of goal were much harder to come by in a follow-up loss to Canada. There was widespread disappointment among the players that they weren’t able to back up their opening display with another strong showing and Chance is looking forward to bouncing back.

"It’s really good having another game after that performance because there’s so much we want to make right," she admits.

"And I think that’s going to push us to get over the line. We’ve got 90 minutes left at this World Cup if we don’t pull through and there’s no better pressure than that."

Cameroon likewise have everything to play for though as they have a similar record to New Zealand and can keep their own hopes of progressing alive with a win. Getting the better of the central Africans will be far from straightforward as they have proved a tough nut to crack in their previous pool games and, unlike New Zealand, have a goal to their name after scoring in a 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands.

"We’re expecting a very tough game, they’ve been very competitive against both the Netherlands and Canada," Sermanni says.

"They’re physically strong, well-organised defensively and have pace up front so it will be another very difficult challenge for us."

Like his players, Sermanni felt the Ferns were far from their best against Canada and is expecting a positive response to the do-or-die nature of tomorrow’s assignment.

"The Canada game was one where we were outplayed on the day, which happens in sport. But, other than that, I can’t fault the focus and effort from the team," he says.

"I think everybody is back on track and the players and staff all know how important this game is. We knew when we came into this tournament that this scenario was a possibility and now it’s just about doing the very best we can against Cameroon."

Match Details

Cameroon vs New Zealand

FIFA Women’s World Cup, Group E

Friday 21 June, 4am (NZT)

Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier

Live on SKY Sport

New Zealand (from): 1. Erin Nayler (GK), 2. Ria Percival, 3. Anna Green, 5. Nicole Stratford, 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley (c), 8. Abby Erceg, 9. Emma Kete, 10. Annalie Longo, 11. Sarah Gregorius, 12. Betsy Hassett, 13. Rosie White, 14. Katie Bowen, 15. Sarah Morton, 16. Katie Duncan, 17. Hannah Wilkinson, 18. Stephanie Skilton, 19. Paige Satchell, 20. Daisy Cleverley, 21. Victoria Esson (GK), 22. Olivia Chance, 23. Nadia Olla (GK)

Coach: Tom Sermanni

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