Young Football Ferns score, but still no win
NICOLA ABERCROMBIE IN BAKU
The Young Football Ferns finally got on the scoreboard but couldn't grab the one record they wanted as they were bundled out of the FIFA under-17 Women's World Cup 4-3 by Brazil today.
Needing a win to have a chance of becoming the first New Zealand women's team to advance past the group stage at a World Cup, the Kiwis got off to the perfect start in Baku, with Emily Jensen recording the side's first goal of the tournament after just four minutes.
But the lead would last only six minutes and the Kiwis were playing catch-up football for the rest of the game.
The roles were reversed from the Young Ferns' first two matches, with their attack on target and their defence sloppy.
Coach Paul Temple said conceding four goals was never going to be enough in a World Cup.
"It's pretty simple, the defence let us down today without a doubt. The first half our defensive effort was probably the poorest it's been. You can't do that against good teams and expect to come out on top."
Young striker Martine Puketapu said the message was loud and clear in the changing rooms at halftime.
"[Temple] said that we definitely needed to improve our defending. We tried to do that in the second half and it showed off a little bit, we tried our best but in the end I guess the result didn't show it."
Jensen's goal came off a perfect corner kick from captain Laura Merrin, the defender using her height to head the ball in past the keeper.
But what New Zealand can do, Brazil could do better, with two superb goals giving them the first half lead.
Byanca showed the fancy footwork Brazilian footballers are known for to score the first and was instrumental in the second, sailing a pass across goal for Brena who took one bounce off her chest and slammed it in goal.
A dubious foul in the box against Meikayla Moore gave Brazilian captain Andressa a penalty kick to push the score out to 3-1.
An own goal from the Brazilians left the Young Ferns just one goal behind at the break.
Brazil came out firing in the second half, with a goal to midfielder Camila after just 10 minutes coming off some untidy New Zealand defence.
The Young Ferns managed to claw a goal back through some neat individual work from 15-year-old Puketapu but it was too little too late for New Zealand.
Despite exiting the tournament without a win, Temple said the World Cup experience was immeasurable for New Zealand footballers.
"We just don't have anything like this or replicating anything anywhere near this kind of environment. We've got to go back and try and improve in areas that we can because these sorts of environments are so different.
"This is our girls' first experience of a tournament like this and all those things are going to help us improve for the future. If we can learn from Japan and play like them I'll be pretty happy."
For Puketapu, who will be eligible again for the 2014 tournament, the next two years can't go fast enough.
"All the hard work and practice games and fitness trainings, everything that went into this. I need to go twice as hard next time because I know the result in the end will be the best feeling ever."
The Young Ferns had also been relying on a big win from Japan, who delivered on their part of the deal with a dominating 9-0 win over Mexico.
The results see Japan and Brazil go through to the quarter-finals while the young Kiwis are heading home without a win.
- © Fairfax NZ News