Ferns into U-20 women's World Cup quarters
The history making Junior Football Ferns will play Nigeria in the quarterfinals of the under-20 Women's World Cup in Canada on Monday.
New Zealand advanced to the knockout stages in emphatic fashion today, beating Costa Rica 3-0 at Toronto's National Soccer Stadium to finish second in Group D behind an outstanding France.
The Aaron McFarland-coached Ferns are the first women's age-group side to reach the knockout stages of a World Cup.
The Football Ferns reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympics - a senior Fifa event.
"Coming back [to the hotel] and looking at all the messages, reality is hitting and we're just overwhelmed,'' said New Zealand captain Katie Bowen.'
"The semifinals has always been our goal because we believe we have the drive and the talent to get there. We've still got that game in our minds. But knowing we've created history is something you can't describe in words... But now we've got to move onto the next game because we've got to win that one to achieve our goal."
Stephanie Skilton opened the scoring in the 24th minute, glancing in a deep free kick from Bowen before Megan Lee added the second in the 69th minute; holding her composure and scooping home after being put clear behind the Costa Rican back four.
Substitute Tayla O'Brien added the third from a corner in injury time.
The Ferns join the 2009 and 2011 under-17 men's teams as the New Zealand sides to have reached the knockout phase of a Fifa age-group event.
McFarland has been a member of the coaching staff of all three teams.
"I'm so pleased with the players,'' McFarland said.
''They took on the responsibility of keeping a clean sheet and taking on a battling approach to fight for a win and do whatever it took to produce a result.
"Those are some of the things you can't coach and it's up to players to stand up and that's really pleasing that they played to win...
"They're over the moon and that exhilaration of winning will last for a few hours. We set a goal of the semifinals and that will keep the players' feet on the ground and help us keep focussed. I think the temptation is often there, now that we've made it through, to relax. We can't afford to do that.''
Nigeria topped Group C after beating England 2-1 today.
Monday's quarterfinal is in Moncton, New Brunswick, with kickoff at 8am.