The Ford Football Ferns concluded the SheBelieves Cup with a 0-0 draw with Czech Republic in Dallas, Texas, this afternoon.
Head coach Jitka Klimková made four changes to the starting line-up from Monday’s clash with the USWNT, with Abby Erceg returning to the heart of defence while Victoria Esson, Malia Steinmetz and Gabi Rennie making their first starts of the tournament.
The first half, which kicked off in chilly conditions (specifically, around -3˚) saw a much more composed beginning from the team in black. Steinmetz’s introduction saw Ria Percival pushed further forward in midfield, and the Western Sydney Wanderers player had an assured display in the number 6 role for the Ferns in just her third ever start for the side. Erceg was a calming presence at the heart of defence, ably backed up by Esson in goal.
A reshuffle in the second half saw Liz Anton come on in place of Gabi Rennie, and usual right back CJ Bott pushed forward. This move almost paid dividends, as Bott burst into the Czech penalty area in the 52nd minute to find herself one on one with Barbora Votíková, only for her shot to end up going past the wrong side of the post.
In the end, while the Ferns had shored up at the back to secure a point, there was a lack of clear cut chances created to enable them to get the three and the game finished 0-0
While the team might not have finished the SheBelieves Cup with the win they were after, Klimková was buoyed by the performances of several individual players over the course of the tournament, as well as the improved mentality on display today.
“I am proud of this team and how we bounced back,” she said after the match.
“We fought to the end. We took a risk when we played with just three defenders at the end of the game, switching to a 3-4-3 formation.
“There were a lot of things we learnt during this tour and that's what we are going to take from the tournament as we look forward.”
She reserved praise for goalkeeper Vic Esson’s performance, who made her first start of the tournament in the state she played college soccer.
“Vic had amazing performance. She calmed the whole team down and we kept the ball. We were more composed with the ball in our possession, and she made a couple of good saves. So it's always great to have a clean sheet.”
Reflecting on the SheBelieves Cup as a whole Klimková was pragmatic, and said the side had learnt a lot about the importance of mindset in tournament football.
“The journey is going to look like that. We are going to make a lot of steps forward and couple of steps backwards. That's what I felt during those two games against Iceland and USA, but this result against Czech Republic is another one forward.
"We talked a lot after Iceland and after the USA about our mentality, our belief, and the way we want to play.
"It's tough in the situation when you concede in the first minute or in the fifth minute of the game. The starts of both our games against Iceland and the USA didn't go how we wanted, and it was a lot about our mindset. So I think that's the biggest lesson learned: how we have to be prepared and how we have to start believing that we can play against anybody.
"But we have to stay focused, we have to believe in each other, we need to trust each other. And that's probably the, the biggest lesson learned from the SheBelieves Cup."
Article added: Thursday 24 February 2022
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