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Young Football Ferns go down with a fight

NICOLA ABERCROMBIE IN BAKU
Last updated 07:50 27/09/2012

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It wasn't the result they were after, but the Young Football Ferns can hold their heads high after pushing a stellar Japan to their limits in their second match at the Fifa under-17 Women's World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The Asian champions proved too good in the end, running out 3-0 winners but it was not without a fight.

With the scores nil-all at halftime, Yui Hasegawa came in for Japan to start the second half and proved the spark they needed, netting the Young Nadeshiko their first two goals, while their third came from a penalty kick in injury time.

New Zealand coach Paul Temple said they had never expected to have many attacking opportunities against the fleet-footed Japanese, but his team could take pride in their defensive efforts.

"We'll take a lot of positives particularly out of the way we defended. We stuck with them most of the game and just a few lapses of concentration and we got punished.

"I think to be honest we were always going to be defending for most of the game. We were playing against a team that's probably going to win this tournament."

Coming off a 5-0 victory over Brazil, Japan were heavy favourites against the Kiwis, who went down 1-0 to Mexico in their opener.

A good shot at goal within the first minute for Japan could have spelled danger but the Young Ferns were much more settled on the pitch than they were in their opener and the initial World Cup nerves seemed to have well and truly passed.

As she was against Mexico, keeper Lily Alfeld was outstanding but Temple said against the Japanese, nothing short of a perfect game would be enough.

"They only need a second of mis-concentration and they punish you for it. Full credit to them. If I wasn't playing against them I'd quite enjoy watching them."

The Young Ferns are still technically a chance to make the quarter-finals but it's a long shot. They must beat Brazil on Sunday, preferably by a healthy margin, and rely on other results going their way.

They may be without defender Laura Merrin though, who went down in the first half with a shoulder injury. She was stretchered off and was still in some pain after the game.

Alfeld said they would take the positives out of this game and come out with nothing to lose against the South Americans, who beat Mexico 1-0 earlier in the day.

"From the Mexico game to where we are now our defending, our passing and our communication improved 110 per cent. In the end I guess they just outplayed us.

"We need the win [against Brazil] and we're definitely going to give it everything. We need some goals and we're up for the challenge."

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- Fairfax Media

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