Football Ferns claim historic win over Brazil
The Football Ferns have been threatening to take a big scalp for some time and they delivered today, becoming the first New Zealand team to beat Brazil.
The national women's team stunned the world No 4 at the four-nation Valais Cup in Switzerland this morning (NZT), winning 1-0 courtesy of an Amber Hearn header in the 66th minute.
It's the first time 19th-ranked New Zealand have beaten a top-10 side and continues their upward curve, having come close to toppling a heavyweight nation several times during the past two years.
After reversing the scoreline from the last match between the Kiwis and Brazil, at the Olympic Games tournament in Cardiff last year, New Zealand will now play China in the Valais Cup final on Thursday morning (NZT). China beat Mexico 1-0 in the earlier match.
Ferns coach Tony Readings told Fairfax Media he believed the result, which is undoubtedly the biggest scalp yet for any New Zealand national team, was nothing more than they deserved.
"We've been knocking on the door of a result like this for some time and we certainly deserved the win today, we created a lot of chances and, to be honest, they didn't create a whole lot," he said from Chatel-St-Denis.
"It's nice to get things you deserve. We've had some hard luck stories in the last year or two so to get this win is great for the team. There was some wayward finishing on our part, which we need to improve on, and the scoreline could easily have been more than one for us."
The tall figure of Hearn, 28, missed a penalty in the 21st minute; she struck the ball to Thais Picarte's right but the Brazilian goalkeeper did well to make the save.
However, the former Arsenal striker who currently plies her trade for USV Jena in the German Bundesliga atoned for the penalty miss just after the hour-mark. From a corner, Hearn rose high and nodded the ball into the net after a misjudgement from the previously steady Picarte.
The Ferns continued to pass well and hold possession in a composed manner, with Brazil rarely threatening their goal.
"We were pretty dominant for large portions of the game," Readings said. "Certainly, the stats would suggest that."
Former multiple world player of the year Marta was missing from the Brazilian lineup but otherwise, Readings said, it was a "pretty strong" team.
"They've got so many good players. Not having Marta would've made a bit of a difference for them but the way we played today I don't think the result would have changed."
Readings said Hearn, outstanding left-back Ali Riley, and the entire midfield deserved plaudits, while goalkeeper Erin Nayler was "really calm and composed at the back for a young player".
He said the team was elated to have beaten Brazil.
"In the past I think they have wanted to win and not believed they can. Now, we go into these games expecting to win."
New Zealand 1 (Amber Hearn 66) Brazil 0. HT: 0-0. At Stade de Lussy, Chatel-St-Denis, Switzerland.
New Zealand: Erin Nayler, Ria Percival, Katie Hoyle, Abby Erceg, Ali Riley, Amber Hearn, Sarah Gregorius, Betsy Hassett, Rebekah Stott, Annalie Longo (Kirsty Yallop 75), Helen Collins (Rosie White 69). Substitutes not used: Rebecca Rolls, Anna Green, Elizabeth Milne, Meikayla Moore, Hannah Wilkinson.