Brazil advance as Kiwis salvage pride
Brazil and New Zealand met amidst often-torrential rain in Shchelkovo on 23 August and fought out a disappointing scoreless draw that was enough to take the Auriverdes through from Group A.
"We didn't play well today," Jorge Barcelos acknowledged after the game. "New Zealand's 4-4-2 formation caused us problems. I'd told the girls to make use of the wings, but they didn't really follow my instructions. But to be fair to them, I was forced to change the system of play due to injuries.
Dynamic up front with Sarah Gregorius and Emma Humphries, the Kiwis failed nonetheless to create any chances, apart from one angled header put wide by Abby Erceg in seven minutes.
Safe in the knowledge that a draw would take them through, the Brazilians were taking few risks, preferring instead to gradually augment their share of the possession without putting their foot on the gas. As the half progressed, Fabiana was put through well down the middle but carried the ball too far to the right, while Francielle then Stephane had cracks at goal from distance which failed to disturb Aroon Clansey.
Eventually, it was the experienced Renata Costa who carved out the best chance of the first half, breaking through the middle and unleashing a vicious strike from 18 yards that Clansey did well to divert for a corner. "We put in a big performance today, and the way we kept Brazil's forwards at bay was especially pleasing. We've definitely enhanced our reputation," New Zealand's Abby Erceg said after the game.
The start of the second period was a carbon copy of the first, with the Kiwis making the play and the Brazilians being content to control proceedings. From the dugout, John Herdman was shouting and bawling out instructions, while on the field, the Auriverdes were still out of sorts.
Herdman 'so proud' of his players
However, despite lacking their customary sparkle, Brazil nevertheless managed to create the best chances, like the dangerous cross-cum-shot from Daiane in 52 minutes or the shot on the turn from Maurine that Clansey kept out with her fingertips 10 minutes later.
With the New Zealanders' energy reserves exhausted and the Brazilians still short on inspiration, the game's intensity then dwindled. Stephane fired over on 75 minutes and the captain of the Canarinhas then proceeded to create the best chance of the match for herself. Daiane sent in a powerful cross which the Botucatu midfielder latched onto in a flash before shooting from point-blank range, only to see the ball flash over.
Despite the Kiwis' efforts, the scoreboard remained unchanged, and the Brazilians head into the quarter-finals as group leaders ahead of Russia on goal difference. As for the Kiwis, they leave Russia with a point - and some pride. "I'm very proud of my players," declared a delighted Herdman afterwards. "They fought tooth and nail for 90 minutes and were a good match for a team like Brazil. Physically and in terms of their organisation, they greatly exceeded my expectations despite their lack of experience."
His counterpart, Jorge Barcelos, meanwhile, was just glad to be through: "Everyone always expects Brazil to play samba football, but the important thing at a world championship is results. We've qualified as group winners, which is all that counts. But I can assure you that I want my girls to play attractive football and I know they will."
Player of the Match: ABBY ERCEG
"She organised her defence very well and possesses fine individual qualities. She did a great deal to stymie the Brazilians' game by making good interceptions. She reads the game well, which is an important quality in football." Connie Selby (AUS), FIFA Technical Study Group .