The Football Ferns were denied a maiden win over Denmark on Tuesday, conceding a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with the European side in wet conditions at the Spice Hotel Football Ground in Belek, Turkey.
Playing her 71st international, midfielder Annalie Longo scored her fifth goal for her country in the 38th minute giving the Football Ferns a lead which looked like being enough to earn the victory until Denmark, ranked 16th in the world, levelled in the 89th minute through Sanne Troelsgaard.
Before Tuesday’s draw, the Football Ferns – currently ranked 18th – had lost the previous three meetings between the sides – two of which had come at FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments.
– AUDIO – Tony Readings post-match interview
– AUDIO – Annalie Longo post-match interview
Football Ferns coach Tony Readings was pleased with his team’s performance outside of the concession of the late equaliser.
“If you look at the last two or three minutes we’re obviously not happy with that,” Readings said.
“But for the majority of the rest of the game it was probably one of our best performances we’ve had for a while. We looked good, we looked fresh, we kept the ball well, we defended well and counter attacked well and our set plays were good.
“Every part of our game was pretty strong today apart from the last couple of minutes which were obviously disappointing because every time we set foot on the pitch when we wear the New Zealand shirt we want to win games.”
Readings said despite not achieving one of their pre-match goals in taking the victory, the bigger picture improvement of the side in their first outing of a World Cup year was very satisfying with several players making their mark among a strong collective effort.
“We had two aims before the game; one was to win it and another was to take a step forward towards the World Cup. We were so close to achieving both but not this time. All in all I’m really happy with the performance and proud of the players.
“The whole team were good today and there weren’t any performances where’d you say they were below par. Annalie was very good today, very good dribbling and making a difference individually. Katie Bowen came back into the team after a while out and Hannah Wilkinson was very effective today and her all around game in and out of possession was very strong.”
Longo’s goal – a deft chip of the opposing ‘keeper after a long sequence of passes – was a nice moment for both the team and the coaching staff having focussed at training on their ability to create goal scoring chances.
“It was a really good finish and the build-up is something we’ve been working on in training. So to see it come off and to get a goal is one of those things that’s really rewarding and inspires you to work harder in training when those things actually come off on the pitch.
“It was a really good goal and sometimes you have a really good performance and cap it with a goal and it’s just perfect. That’s what Annalie did today, she was solid all round and I think she deserved that goal.”
Football Ferns 1 – Denmark 1. Creating loads more opportunities in front of goal, just need to put them away now!! Great goal @annalielongo
— Katie Hoyle (@katiehoyle04) January 12, 2015
After another strong showing against a team ranked higher than themselves, Readings and his Football Ferns believe they are better than their current slot in the ladder suggests and they are close to being able to put games to bed against the top sides.
“We believe we should be a little higher up those rankings with the performances we’ve been putting in over the last two years.
“For us, we believe we should be beating these teams by the World Cup and if we keep playing like we did today and taking those steps forward we’ll start doing that.”
After coming off the bench late in the second half, Hayley Bowden made her 91st appearance for the Football Ferns – her first since March 2013 after the birth of her first child.
The second and final match of the series is on Thursday 15 January at 9pm (NZ time).
Football Ferns 1-1 Denmark (half: 1-0)
NZL: Annalie Longo 38’
DEN: Sanne Troelsgaard 89′
New Zealand: 1. Erin Nayler (GK), 2. Ria Percival, 4. Katie Hoyle (11. Kirsty Yallop 61’), 5. Abby Erceg (capt), 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 9. Amber Hearn, 13. Rosie White (10. Sarah Gregorius 62’), 16. Annalie Longo (8. Hayley Bowden 89’), 17. Hannah Wilkinson (20. Helen Collins 69’), 18. Katie Bowen (12. Betsy Hassett 46’)
Substitutes not used: 3. CJ Bott, 15. Meikayla Moore, 23. Cushla Lichtwark, 26. Daisy Cleverley
Coach: Tony Readings
Information provided by Jeremy Ruane was used in this report.