Young Football Ferns 'keeper standout player
NICOLA ABERCROMBIE IN BAKU
Like most Kiwi girls, Lily Alfeld started her football career playing with the boys.
From a four-year-old just starting out in Christchurch, Alfeld is now being touted as a tournament stand-out at the FIFA under-17 Women’s World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the Young Football Ferns first match against Mexico, the 17-year-old goalkeeper was the star of the show, despite the New Zealanders going down 1-0.
Both her coach Paul Temple and his Mexican counterpart credited her with keeping the scoreline respectable.
Against Japan, two spectacular first half saves helped keep the Young Nadeshiko scoreless at halftime.
With the Young Ferns final match against Brazil tomorrow a must win, the Lincoln High School student will once again need to be at her best.
“Against Mexico we knew that we could have played a lot better and that was disappointing. We’re glad we were able to show against Japan that we’re not just an easy beat,” said the young keeper.
“We know we have more than Brazil have shown so far and we definitely have the ability to win.”
The World Cup stage is the culmination of more than 10 years on the football pitch for Alfeld and in recent years, a lot of hard work.
The year 12 student, who says her idols are US keeper Hope Solo and All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen, hasn’t played for her school side for three years due to national team commitments.
While she now relishes the chance to “be the hero” in goal, she did not initially aspire to be a keeper.
“When we were little there was a weekly roster so everyone eventually got stuck in goal. When I was about 12 they put me in for one game and I played well so from then on they didn’t let me out.
“We had the under-17 World Cup in New Zealand in 2008 and we went and watched the German team train. Seeing them train and watching their skill that was probably the first time I knew it was really what I wanted to pursue.”
This is not Alfeld’s first under-17 World Cup – she was the third choice keeper in Trinidad and Tobago two years ago – but she said any chance to play against top teams like Japan is an invaluable learning opportunity.
“When we’re back in New Zealand we never play at that pace and that speed. Those girls are playing day in and day out whereas we have to rely on camps in the holidays.
“The whole tournament is so professional and organised. To the tiniest detail everything has been covered. It’s a different class to anything we’ve experienced.”
Ultimately Alfeld would like to attend a college in the United States, play for the Football Ferns and at some point turn professional.
But in her immediate future is Brazil, and despite the many accolades being thrown her way, she’s still striving for “the perfect game”.
The Young Ferns hold the less than desirable tournament record of the longest streak without a goal and will need to break it if they are to make the quarter-finals.
The New Zealanders need to make up a four-goal differential, meaning they also need Japan to beat Mexico by at least a couple of goals.
- © Fairfax NZ News