Young Ferns face big challenge against Japan
NICOLA ABERCROMBIE IN BAKU
A New Zealand women's football team has never made it out of the group stages of a World Cup. If the under-17s are going to change that, they'll need to summon something special against Japan tomorrow morning (NZT).
The Young Football Ferns lost their opener to Mexico at the under-17 World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan on Sunday and while they were cooling down, Japan was busy wiping the pitch with Brazil.
The Asian confederation champions beat the South Americans 5-0 and were clinical from the opening whistle to the last.
Kiwi coach Paul Temple said his side would have to be at their absolute best to get a point out of the game.
He said there was an element of stage fright for some in their first World Cup experience against Mexico and he was expecting better performances from both individuals and the team.
Despite the undeniable skill of the Young Nadeshiko - their assistant coach says they are better than the under-20 side, who have beaten their world champion national team - Temple said the key was to focus on what they could control.
"I think you can over analyse things a bit. We all know they're good. You can watch the footage a hundred times and say how good they are at this, or there might be a small weakness there, but the reality is you have to be able to perform yourself as a team.
"If we go out and play the best we possibly can we could get a result or they could still be better than us, but we can't control that.
"Despite the result if we put in a really credible performance and one that we're all really happy with then we can go into the Brazil game trying to target points off the back of those performances."
The loss to Mexico did put the Young Ferns on the back foot, but if they can manage at least a draw with Japan, and if Brazil beat Mexico, they are still in with a chance of advancing to the quarter-finals.
They would need to beat Brazil, which may sound daunting but in this case the football nation's reputation is at odds with its team.
Brazil were completely undone by Japan and Temple has backed the comments from their coach claiming the two South American teams and the Kiwis play at a similar level.
Temple said despite the girls' young age, they were still ingrained with the Kiwi never-say-die attitude.
"We're not going to set ourselves up to try and draw or go out and keep the score down. We're going to go out a try to win because that's what everybody wants to do.
"We'll try to win the game but Japan are probably the top side and I wouldn't be surprised if they won the whole thing.
"The other three teams in the group look reasonably well matched so the game against Brazil is one that we can definitely look at and say we can look to get three points.
"We can look to win it and if results go our way tomorrow, even if we don't beat Japan and Brazil win their game, then if we beat Brazil we can still go through.
"Anything can happen."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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