A pair of individual milestones have already been achieved on the Football Ferns’ two-match tour of the United States and another is likely to arrive tomorrow if Erin Nayler takes up her usual spot between the sticks.
Still only 25-years-old, the athletic custodian has made 49 appearances for her country and could have the honour of bringing up her half century against the best team in the world at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
In doing so, she would join team mates Annalie Longo and Betsy Hassett in having special reason to remember this fortnight fondly after both received their 100th cap in the 3-1 loss that opened the tour.
“It’s really exciting and it’s crazy to think that I’ve played almost 50 games already,” Nayler says. “It’s gone so quickly and I’ve got so many memories.”
It’s testament to how far Nayler has come in her career and the experiences she has already been able to enjoy that she will not be put off her stride in walking out in front of an expected crowd of over 30,000 tomorrow.
“There’s not really one moment in particular that stands out but I’d say the big events such as the World Cup and Olympics have been really exciting times,” she says of her five years in the Football Ferns environment.
“Obviously, in both of those events we haven’t got the results we wanted but the whole experience was just amazing.”
It was during one of those matches that Nayler made what she considers to be the most important save of her career to date.
“I’d say it would have to be at the Olympics against Colombia. It was the last minute of the game and I had to make the save to keep it at 1-0 to us,” she recalls.
That vital stop may soon have competition for number one if the Ferns can pull off a shock result tomorrow against the USA, who are top of the rankings and reigning FIFA Women’s World Cup champions. Any such success would surely need to be built on an outstanding defensive showing, requiring Nayler to exhibit the full range of her abilities.
She was far from tested to the limit in the previous match though, in which she had to pick the ball out of her net on three occasions after clinical finishes but had few other serious saves to make as New Zealand dealt well with America’s much-vaunted attack.
“I think as a team we can be pretty proud of ourselves,” she says.
“We went in with high expectations as we always do and we didn’t get the result. But we aren’t too disappointed because we haven’t been together for six months and I think we can be really proud of the way we took it to the US.”
With coach Tony Readings looking to build on the positive signs shown in that first game in Denver, there are unlikely to be wholesale changes to the Ferns starting line-up and Nayler is relishing the chance to have another crack at the world’s best.
“We don’t have much time to change too much but I think we’ll really look to take it to the US again,” she says. “We need to play our game and stick to the game plan and hopefully get a result against them this time.”
Football Ferns Tour of USA
USA vs Football Ferns
Wednesday 20 September, 12pm (NZT)
New Zealand: 1. Erin Nayler (GK), 2. Ria Percival, 3. Anna Green, 4. CJ Bott, 5. Meikayla Moore, 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 8. Daisy Cleverley, 10. Annalie Longo, 11. Kirsty Yallop, 12. Betsy Hassett, 13. Rosie White, 14. Katie Bowen, 15. Martine Puketapu, 16. Olivia Chance, 17. Hannah Wilkinson, 18. Aimee Phillips, 20. Malia Steinmetz, 21. Anna Leat (GK), 22. Katie Rood, 23. Victoria Esson (GK), 25. Liz Anton, 26. Jane Barnett
Coach: Tony Readings