Football Ferns open Olympics action with loss
FRED WOODCOCK IN CARDIFF
Like his players, Football Ferns coach Tony Readings preferred to accentuate the positives after their 1-0 loss to Britain in the Olympic Games opener at Millennium Stadium today (NZT).
It's probably all he could do after the disappointing start to their camapign, but the most comforting factor for the coach was a belief in his team to bounce back.
That will be a tough ask, though, with world No 5 Brazil next up on Sunday (NZT).
"What we have proved time and time again is that when we come up against adversity we always react in the best way possible," he said from the bowels of Cardiff's magnificent rugby stadium.
"What they will know is that today was a missed opportunity and I think we will use that to our advantage, because we know we weren't completely outplayed for the 90 minutes."
Readings felt they should have got something out of the game, though most objective observers would say they were outplayed on balance. The 1-0 scoreline certainly didn't flatter the hosts.
"I think we have a lot of positives to take from the performance today," he said.
"We had a few chances there as well, that's one game down and we have two more games to get six points, which is what we are aiming for."
Readings said the players were disappointed, devastated even, which was a sign of of far they had come in the past five years.
"That feeling is because we have lofty expectations, we expect to win these games. We expect to progress out of the group and take it from there."
The coach was rapt with his team's start - they dominated the first 15 minutes against a nervous British side - but once the hosts pressed forward, the Ferns struggled to keep possession.
"As they got into the game and the crowd got noisier, it lifted their team," he said.
"Maybe if we could have scored in the first 20-25 minutes when we were on top, the game could have taken a different route. But we didn't and we need to learn from that and to take advantage from phases when we are on top.
"GB started to press us more and we didn't move the ball as quickly as we did earlier in the match and it allowed them to get on top. We will just keep playing the way we set out to play."
He said the free kick, which led to the 64th minute winner from defender Stephanie Houghton, could have been defended better - "it felt like the ball went in the net quite easily'' - but other factors had contributed to the loss.
He also refused to put too much emphasis on striker Sarah Gregorius' glaring miss, in the 71st minute, when a defensive botch up saw her one-on-one but she scuffed the shot at the keeper.
"There's a whole heap of things we could have done better and she's missed an opportunity but the players will rally around, and by Brazil she will look to put things right in the next game.
"She's a pretty unique character. She's one of the bubbliest personalities in the camp."
New Zealand will need to beat Brazil or, more likely, Cameroon in the final pool match next Wednesday if they are to have any chance to progressing to the quarterfinals in the 12-team competition.
Great Britain 1 (Stephanie Houghton) New Zealand 0. HT: 0-0.
- Fairfax Media