August 3, 2012
NEWCASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM – The Football Ferns are embracing the challenge of taking on defending gold medallists USA in their Olympic quarterfinal at St James’ Park, Newcastle on Friday.
Far from big daunted by the task of facing the standard bearers of women’s football in the Ferns first ever knockout match at a major event, the Ferns are taking the same relaxed, confident but focussed approach into the game as they have done all tournament.
Helping soothe the nerves is the memory of February’s international in Dallas when New Zealand led the World number one until the 89th minute before losing 2-1.
That match, the first of coach Tony Readings’ tenure, began a year where the Football Ferns showed a new level of confidence, ability and results on the world stage that led the team travelling to London talking about challenging for medals rather than just being credible competitors.
Readings says heading into a match against the three times gold medallists without any hint of fear is a sign of how far the team have come.
“History shows that whoever wins the gold medal will have to beat the USA. They’ve played in all four Olympic finals and won three of them so the path to the podium goes through them.
“We’re comfortable with that, not just because you expect to have to play the world number one if you want to be contesting the medals but also because we did pretty well against them in February.
“That was our first game since the world cup and we were already a better team compared to that tournament. We’ve only got better with each game since, adding new ways to nullify threats or expose weaknesses.”
Readings says the team are aiming high.
“We’ve made it to the quarterfinals for the first time but that wasn’t the goal and the players aren’t content with that. We came here, like every other team, to win a gold medal.
“There has been no let off in training from the players, no sign of them sitting back and being happy with a place in the last eight, no sign that they thought the job was done.
“We’ve grown through this tournament in the three games we’ve played and I believe we’ll grow again tomorrow because we’re looking to get a result from this tournament. We feel we’ve played well so far but we’ve got another gear to go.”
Readings once again has a full squad to choose from with Hannah Wilkinson returning from suspension.
The match kicks off at 1.30am Saturday morning (NZT) and is live on Sky Sport 1.
Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
New Zealand v USA
St James’ Park, Newcastle
2.30pm August 3 (1.30am, August 4 NZT)
Live on Sky Sport 1
New Zealand: (from) 1-Jenny BINDON (GK), 2-Ria PERCIVAL, 3-Anna GREEN, 4-Katie HOYLE, 5-Abby ERCEG, 6-Rebecca SMITH (captain), 7-Ali RILEY, 8-Hayley MOORWOOD, 9-Amber HEARN, 10-Sarah GREGORIUS, 11-Kirsty YALLOP, 12-Betsy HASSETT, 13-Rosie WHITE, 14-Kristy HILL, 15-Rebekah STOTT, 16-Annalie LONGO, 17-Hannah WILKINSON, 18-Rebecca ROLLS (GK).
Coach: Tony READINGS
USA: (from) 1-Hope SOLO (GK), 2-Heather MITTS, 3-Christie RAMPONE, 4-Becky SAUERBRUNN, 5-Kelley O’HARA, 6-Amy LE PEILBET, 7-Shannon BOXX, 8-Amy RODRIGUEZ, 9-Heather O’REILLY, 10-Carli LLOYD, 11-Sydney LEROUX, 12-Lauren CHENEY, 13-Alex MORGAN, 14-Abby WAMBACH, 15-Megan RAPINOE, 16-Rachel BUEHLER, 17-Tobin HEATH, 18-Nicole BARNHART (GK).
Coach: Pia SUNDHAGE