Young Football Ferns encouraged by wins
The Young Football Ferns are heading for the under-17 women's World Cup buoyed by two good results in Switzerland but wary of the step up in class they will face in Azerbaijan.
The New Zealanders were due to touch down in Baku today ahead of their World Cup opener against Mexico on Sunday (10pm NZT, live on Sky Sport 2).
Paul Temple's side has spent the past five days in the Swiss Alps where it recorded two good warmup wins, beating FC Yverdon 3-2 and FC Sion 8-0. Yverdon are currently second in the top Swiss women's league.
''That first match was a really tough encounter but it was a good test for us,'' Temple said last night, before they left for Azerbaijan.
''We were 2-0 down in the first half and came back and won 3-2. The second team we played wasn't as strong but we played a lot better as well and to score eight goals was a good confidence boost.''
New Zealand face Mexico on Sunday and Japan and Brazil in other pool C matches next week.
It's a tough group by anyone's standards, with Japan and Brazil at the forefront of women's football and Mexico always a team to be wary of, at any level.
The top two teams from each of the four pools progress to the quarterfinals on the 16-team competition.
Temple is keeping expectations in terms of results down but, with his squad having spent the past 21 months preparing for the tournament, he is confident of good performances.
''All of the team are playing premier league football either in Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington,'' he said.
''We've been building up for a while and most of the group has been in the system since last April, although we've got a few players who have come in later down the track.''
Most of the team has been plucked from National Talent Centres around the country, providing a greater geographical spread than past squads which have been very Auckland-centric.
About half the squad hails from outside Auckland and includes one overseas-based player, midfielder Emma Fletcher, who plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada and is expected to be one of New Zealand's best players in Azerbaijan.
Temple said the geographical spread of the squad provided challenges compared with preparing past Auckland-dominated teams but that was a good thing.
''You don't see the whole squad as much as you'd like to but it's a real positive that quality players are now coming from regions outside of Auckland.
''Coastal Spirit in Christchurch (who have three players in the squad) and Waterside Karori (four players) in Wellington are doing really well in national competitions and helping local players come through.''
- © Fairfax NZ News