U-17 women kick off with win

The New Zealand U-17 women line up for the national anthem

The New Zealand U-17 women have kicked off their long-term bid to make an impact at the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup on a winning note, earning a well-deserved 2-0 victory over Chile in their opening match of a three-match series in China.

The tournament in Weifang is the first taste of international action for the talented young squad assembled by coach Leon Birnie and they made an immediate mark, racing into a two-goal lead early on against the South Americans.

A total of 16 players made their debuts and Ella Russ wasted no time in making the most of hers, getting on the scoresheet in the first minute.

The dream start continued when Kate Duncan added a second just eight minutes later and Birnie’s charges then went on to successfully manage the game and secure a win that will live long in their memories.

“It was really pleasing, we didn’t know anything about Chile coming into the game which always makes it very challenging,” Birnie said.

“So to get a 2-0 win and come away with a clean sheet was pleasing but I think even more pleasing was to see some of the concepts that we’ve spoken about in training over the last two days come out in the game. We already knew there are some really good players in this squad but it was good to see them out there expressing themselves on the international stage,” he added.

The New Zealand starting eleven pose for a keepsake on international debut

“Today gave them an opportunity to play against quality opposition and it showed them the level that’s required. There was a good tempo, speed of play and physicality – just everything that comes with international fixtures.”

Birnie feels the maturity his players displayed bodes well as he looks to lay the foundations for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which takes place in September of next year in India.

“What was really pleasing today was that I spoke to the players around game management and I think in the second half we did that really well. To be able to show that skillset and implement it so early in the campaign is exciting,” he said.

“The group laid an excellent platform by demonstrating a high level of ability and we are now looking for consistent performances across the next two matches.”

The focus will now turn to recovery to ensure the players are at their best again in meeting hosts China on Friday evening.

“I think China will be the most challenging game out of the three, they’re ever present at World Cups and we expect this to be a really tough game,” he said.

“They’ll be technically very good and well coached, I’ve heard over here that they’ve been together for a while whereas we’re very new in our campaign. So it will be a big test but one we’re up for and we’re really excited to see how we go against them.”

Leon Birnie has taken a talented squad of 18 players to China

Match Details

New Zealand 2 (Ella Russ 1’, Kate Duncan 9’)
Chile 0
HT: 2-0

New Zealand: 12. Murphy Sheaff (GK), 3. Kate Taylor (c), 5. Freya Lodge-Whitham, 6. Zoe McMeeken, 8. Samantha Senior (7. Alaina Granger 55’), 10. Kate Duncan (9. Alyssa Whinham 46’), 13. Mona Walker (11. Nina Kondo 70’), 14. Ava Pritchard (18. Alisha Braun 55’), 15. Charlotte Lancaster, 16. Ella Russ (2. Ella Dorward 55’), 17. Lisa Evans
Substitutes not used: 1. Ariana Gray (GK), 4. Claudia Wilson
Coach: Leon Birnie 

Article added: Thursday 18 July 2019

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