Football Ferns down Cameroon, advance
After a day they will never forget, the Football Ferns are talking themselves up ahead of their Olympic women's football quarterfinal against the United States on Friday.
The Ferns snuck in the backdoor of qualifying this morning when another result went their way and they swept past Cameroon 3-1 in Coventry.
The Ferns learned 15 minutes before kick-off that a win would be enough to get them through as a ''lucky loser'' and it added some interest to what would otherwise been a meaningless match.
When North Korea lost 1-0 to the United States, the Ferns only needed a win to advance as one of the two best third-placed teams.
They did that and now as lowest qualifier, they are pitted against top qualifier United States at St James' Park in Newcastle on Friday (Saturday NZ time).
"We feel we fully deserved this over the course of the three games," Ferns coach Tony Readings said after earlier 1-0 losses to Great Britain and Brazil.
"Whilst we lost the first two games, those narrow losses have proved vital."
Readings said it "nerve wracking" before kick-off waiting to learn if the United States would beat North Korea and keep their Olympic dream alive.
"I was refreshing my phone every minute," he said.
"I think North Korea had a chance at the end of the game and it went over the bar.
"We let them (the team) know on the pitch during the warm-up because we were watching it on the screen."
Readings believes the Football Ferns are capable of causing an upset against the US, though on the evidence of today's display they need serious work on their finishing.
"We think we have taken a step forward every game and we know we are going to have to step it up again on Friday.
"We played USA in February and we were leading up until 89 minutes and they came and snatched it off us so we have already shown we are capable of beating these teams."
It took 43 minutes for the Ferns to get their noses in front against Cameroon but once captain Rebecca Smith headed home a corner the brakes came off and the Ferns enjoyed a nice 15 minute period against what can only be described as modest opposition.
Two further goals were added before the hour, the first an own goal after a goalkeeping howler by Annette Ngo Ndom and the second after a rattling good header from Sarah Gregorious.
The biggest cheer of the night from the 11,500 crowd came when Cameroon's Gabrielle Onguene scored with a header in the 75th minute.
Best of the night for the Ferns was probably Ali Riley. Ria Percival caught the eye with some nice deliveries into the box and little Katie Hoyle almost scored a goal to remember from 30m only for it to glance off the post.