Young defender Elizabeth Anton had her Football Fern dreams come true when Tony Readings named his side for two international friendlies against world number one USA.
The 19-year old will trade her Western Springs team-mates for the likes of FC Basel’s Ria Percival and Betsy Hassett of KR Reykjavik in Iceland when the New Zealand side takes on the defending FIFA World Cup champions on September 16 and 20 (NZT).
Selection into Readings’ side is reward for a number of years’ worth of hard work.
“I have worked pretty hard over the last few years,” Anton says.
“Especially over the course of this year, with the introduction of the FFDP, it has been a pretty full on year with this and New Zealand U-20 commitments.”
Anton believes the FFDP – New Zealand Football’s innovative female player development initiative – has played a key role in aiding her progress with the programme designed to overcome some of the challenges this country’s amateur players face compared to the world’s leading nations.
“The FFDP has played a massive role in my development and selection into the Ferns squad,” she says.
“Each training and game in the FFDP has been another opportunity to become a more whole player, to improve my weaknesses and to exhibit my strengths. At the same time, it has also been an opportunity to compete with other FFDP team mates for a seat on the plane to the USA.”
Readings and his management staff have had their eye on the pacey defender for some time and the national coach says this is reward for positive performances in the FFDP.
“Liz is a player we have known for a long time and we are trying to give new players opportunities to stake their claim and create more competition for places,” he says.
“She has been working very hard and has been playing well in the FFDP and that programme is starting to reap some rewards.”
Anton will be joined on the plane to the United States by Anna Leat and Malia Steinmetz, both of whom featured with Anton in the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in July.
“That was great, it was the first time the team had properly got together and we put in some good performances. It leaves a good foundation to build upon leading into France next year.”
Before then though, Anton has a potential senior debut with the national side to target.
“I want to make the most of being in an environment with people that I respect as players and aspire to be like,” she says.
“Hopefully, I will learn things from them on and off the pitch. Whatever role I am required to fill in the US, I want to do my best at it for the team.”
Football Ferns Tour of the USA
September 16, 2pm (NZT)
Dick’s Sports Goods Park
Commerce City, Colorado
September 20, 11.30am (NZT)
University of Cincinnati
Story courtesy of the Auckland Football Federation