Her disappointment at missing out on a quarter-final spot at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup was obvious, but the future holds some exciting opportunities for New Zealand midfielder Emma Fletcher should things go her way.
Having fought whole-heartedly in an action-packed 4-3 defeat to Brazil, where victory would have seen them through to face Germany, the Young Football Ferns must return home after dropping out of Group C.
However Fletcher can console herself that two tournaments on the horizon have a special place in her heart, being the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2014 and FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015, both being staged in her native Canada.
She’s also convinced that a fair few familiar faces could be present in the New Zealand squads for those competitions. “I think a lot of this team could be at those tournaments, for sure, we’ve got a lot of great players," Fletcher told FIFA.com.
“While it’s disappointing we didn’t fulfil our potential here, I think we have some phenomenal players who are definitely going to shine on the world stage.”
Coach Paul Temple was full of praise for his girls and was sure Azerbaijan 2012 would have a positive impact on his side in the future. “It’s been a great experience for the girls, they’ve never had anything like it.
“They’ll be all the better for it and hopefully they can push into the U-20s. They’ve given everything in every game. You can’t ask for much more than your very best and they’ve given that.”
The 17-year-old No10 Fletcher, who holds dual citizenship for both Canada and New Zealand, realises that it’s going to be no easy task to make it into those sides, but is driven by the chance to play on a more familiar stage.
“Those tournaments are very big targets for me. I’m aiming to be in at least one of those teams competing in those world cups. It’d be so cool to play in front of a home crowd, though it’d be a lot of work for me to get there, but it’d be absolutely awesome.”
Despite only spending a year as part of the New Zealand set-up, the Vancouver Whitecaps player has gone on to become a pivotal part of the Young Football Ferns midfield line, playing all-but six minutes of their Azerbaijan 2012 campaign.
But her part in the team came almost by chance, having been pursued by her New Zealand-native father. “My dad’s a full Kiwi and he emailed them to see if they would be interested in me playing for them. I lived there between nine and ten, so I have quite a Kiwi background, but I still live in Canada.”
Being located up in the northern hemisphere amongst a different footballing culture has seen her bring a different skill-set to the team. “It’s pretty interesting because in Canada we play in style which I feel is quite a bit more strength-based, so coming from Canada and playing in New Zealand is quite beneficial in that respect as they’re different styles.”
So while it may have made Fletcher something of a novelty over the last 12 months, she’ll be hoping it’ll be all too familiar to those she’s playing in front of over the next four years if her dreams are on track.