The Footballing world is writing them off, but New Zealand believe they can beat the United States and progress to the semifinals of the Olympic women's football tournament.
The 23rd-ranked Football Ferns head into tomorrow morning's quarterfinal against the world No 1 at St James' Park in Newcastle as underdogs, but spurring them on are the results of two friendly matches in Texas in February.
The Ferns led the US 1-0 until the 89th minute, but they lost 2-1, courtesy of two late goals from star striker Alex Morgan.
The two teams then played a closed-door match. Both coaches agreed the details of the second match would not go public, but Fairfax Media was told at the time the result was 0-0.
Much water has gone under the bridge since then and the US, last year's losing World Cup finalists, certainly have better form here at the Olympics.
They were unbeaten in group play, beating France 4-2, Colombia 3-0 and North Korea 1-0, while New Zealand were disappointing in a 1-0 loss to Britain, but bounced back with a gutsy 1-0 loss to Brazil and a 3-1 victory over Cameroon.
“We think we've taken a step up every game and we'll need to do that in the quarterfinal,” Ferns coach Tony Readings said.
“Normally, the team that wins it is not necessarily the team that starts with a bang, they are the ones who grow slowly through the tournament.”
Sweden play France, Brazil face Japan and the hosts play Canada, coached by former Ferns mentor John Herdman, in the other quarterfinals. Should New Zealand cause a boilover, they'll face either Britain or Canada.
Quarterfinal: NZ v US, Live on SKY Sport 11 & SKY Sport 1 from 1.30am.
- Fairfax Media