The Football Ferns’ hopes of glory at the Cyprus Cup have been stamped out after a 3-0 defeat to Austria this morning but some important building blocks have been laid for the future after a pair of players made their international debuts and a new captain took the armband.
New Zealand went into the clash at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia needing a win to keep their chances of lifting the trophy alive after Scotland scored twice in the last 10 minutes to steal a 3-2 victory in their opening game on Thursday morning (NZT).
Coach Tony Readings felt his side was unlucky not to have taken something from what was their first outing since the Rio Olympic Games last August but knew they would be facing another tough challenge in taking on an Austria outfit that had lost only two matches in the past two years.
Readings again went with a new-look 3-4-3 formation but there was a significant change at the back as the hugely experienced Abby Erceg – who had announced her international retirement on the eve of the tournament – made way for Anna Green.
That meant the match was a special moment for Ali Riley, who lined up as the left wing-back once more and donned the captain’s armband in the absence of the 130-plus capped Erceg. It was the first time United States-based Riley had skippered her country since doing so against Australia in early 2010.
Football Ferns captain Ali Riley
In the only other alterations to the starting line-up from the Scotland defeat, Kirsty Yallop was brought into the middle of the park – allowing Annalie Longo to be pushed further forward into the front three at the expense of Jasmine Pereira – while Hannah Wilkinson came in for fellow attacker Rosie White.
But the changes did not have the desired effect early on as Nicole Billa gave Austria the advantage after 19 minutes and New Zealand were kept scoreless for the rest of the half as the Europeans went in with a slender 1-0 lead.
Readings had replaced Wilkinson with White, who had found the net in the Scotland match, just before half-time and was forced into another change as the injured Ria Percival exited for Pereira at right wing-back. But when another goal arrived it again went to Austria as Verena Aschauer doubled her side’s advantage in the 53rd minute.
New Zealand responded to going two goals down by again turning to the bench, Ajax midfielder Betsy Hassett replacing veteran Yallop and young goalkeeper Anna Leat was to later join Riley in celebrating a huge personal milestone by coming on for her international debut.
The 15-year-old entered the fray in the 75th minute and was beaten just once during her first taste of an ‘A’ international when Jasmin Eder made the game safe for Austria with their third two minutes later.
There was still time for another debut as Martine Puketapu received a few moments of action as a late replacement for Amber Hearn while another bright prospect for the future, twice-capped Paige Satchell, enjoyed over 20 minutes after coming on for Longo.
Football Ferns coach Tony Readings
The Football Ferns will look to finish their Group B play on a high when they face Korea Republic at 4.30am on Tuesday morning (NZT) and will then play off against a to-be-confirmed opponent for their final placing on Thursday.
The Cyprus Cup is a global invitational tournament for national teams in women’s football. It has been held annually in Cyprus since 2008.
New Zealand have never won the tournament – their best result came in 2010 when they finished runners-up to Canada, losing 1-0 in the final.
New Zealand 0
Austria 3 (Nicole Billa 19’, Verena Aschauer 53’, Jasmin Eder 77’)
New Zealand: 1. Erin Nayler (GK) (Anna Leat 75’), 2. Ria Percival (8. Jasmine Pereira 45’), 3. Anna Green, 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 9. Amber Hearn (25. Martine Puketapu 88’), 10. Annalie Longo (27. Paige Satchell 68’), 11. Kirsty Yallop (12. Betsy Hassett 54’), 14. Katie Bowen, 15. Meikayla Moore, 17. Hannah Wilkinson (13. Rosie White 40’)
Substitutes not used: 5. Abby Erceg, 18. CJ Bott, 20. Daisy Cleverley, 22. Aimee Phillips, 28. Malia Steinmetz
Coach: Tony Readings