NZ 2008 takes centre stage
© Foto-net

The end product of two years of diligent preparations will be seen in Auckland's North Harbour Stadium on Tuesday when hosts New Zealand take on Canada in the opening match of the first-ever FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.

Today, four of the curtain-raiser's main protagonists - New Zealand's coach and captain, Paul Temple and Bri Fisher, and their Canadian counterparts, Bryan Rosenfeld and Bryanna McCarthy - took to the stage with Tatjana Haenni, FIFA Head of Women's Competitions and Chris Simpson, CEO of the Local Organising Committee, to discuss the forthcoming showpiece. Here is what they had to say.

Tatjana Haenni, FIFA Head of Women's Competitions
"It's a pleasure to be here and I must first of all pass on the best regards of the FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter, who we expect to be present for the finals. That in itself shows the importance FIFA has placed on this event; even though it's the first one and involves really young girls, there's no difference in how FIFA is organising this tournament compared to any other FIFA World Cup. By starting this U-17 competition, we now have exactly the same structure for men and women's tournaments. Eighty-one countries have competed in the qualifiers around the world, which is a huge number for a new competition in what is a developing sport. We're now really looking forward to the competition and would like to thank the LOC for their excellent efforts. If the tournament goes on as well as it has so far, I have no doubt that it will be a very successful event.

We want to leave behind a legacy for women's football in New Zealand: that is key for FIFA.
Tatjana Haenni outlines one of FIFA's key goals.

"Obviously it's one of our main wishes that a lot of spectators turn out for the games and in this respect I think the LOC have done a great job. We must also thank the media, because the coverage we have seen of the tournament so far has been very impressive. We're aware that football is not the main sport in New Zealand and that there are some challenges for us. But this is a real chance to say to people: you can make women's football stronger in your country. The level of football is also much better than people will perhaps think, so I expect that the New Zealand people will be pleasantly surprised. "

Chris Simpson, CEO of the Local Organising Committee
"It's a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand to have FIFA on our shores and we've been working very hard for more than two years now to plan for this event. As those two years have gone on, I think Kiwis have really started to understand the global nature of football and the opportunities that hosting a FIFA World Cup presents both for women's football and for global exposure for our country. So we're at the start line now, we're ready to get into it, and we're looking forward to helping provide those experiences and memories that go hand-in-hand with any FIFA World Cup. We're also looking forward not only to providing a great FIFA experience, but also a great Kiwi experience.

"We're very confident that there will be a good turnout at the games. We've had a lot of good feedback even from non-football people that they want to come and check out a FIFA World Cup event. We're certainly hoping that sports fans in general come out and support this because it doesn't happen often that an event such as this is staged on your own doorstep. The momentum seems to be really picking up now and we just need to convert that into bums on seats."

Bryan Rosenfeld, Canada coach
"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for us over the past 14 months. We qualified in July third in our confederation and it was tough because we lost some key players prior to that tournament. But we have rebounded nicely since then and been able to rebuild the squad. Coming into the opening game, I feel we are a better team than we were during the CONCACAF qualifiers and we're certainly excited about taking on this inaugural event. I think every coach coming into a tournament like this has dreams of going the distance. If you're not thinking that way, why are you here? But we'll have to take it game-by-game, and getting out of the group is obviously our first priority.

"We know New Zealand are a good team and have the advantage of playing at home, but we'll be prepared for them and I think it will be an excellent and very competitive match. I've been in touch with Paul Temple a lot over the past 10 months about coaching and preparations and when you talk to a coach, you get an impression of whether they're doing the right things. And Paul's definitely done a good job."

I think we're currently the best we've ever been, we're certainly the fittest we've ever been, and internally we're feeling very confident about our own ability.
Paul Temple is confident about New Zealand's chances.

Paul Temple, New Zealand coach
"Our team's preparations have been going really well. Not having to qualify, as hosts, has enabled us to focus solely on this event and we've had a vision all the way along of where we want to get to. It's been a really exciting journey; we've visited countries like Paraguay and Australia, and we've have good wins against our Aussie rivals. As Brian said, you have dreams of going all the way and it's inspirational to be here, looking at the trophy. This is certainly what we're playing for."

Bryanna McCarthy, Canada captain
"I realise that there is a lot expected because this is the first-ever game being played in this U-17 FIFA World Cup. New Zealand are playing at home and we know that they'll come out strong, but we're determined to play just as hard. It's nerve-wracking to be playing in this tournament but it's also a huge responsibility and huge honour, and it's up to us to show the people back home that we're ready to represent Canada."

Bri Fisher, New Zealand captain
"This is such an important tournament and an amazing opportunity to play on home soil. I'm extremely proud to be captain of this team and hopefully I can lead us to victory. I'm also very excited to show the world our style of football - the Kiwi style - and to show everyone how much talent we have in our team. We're against history, given that no New Zealand team has ever got past the group stage, but I see that as an amazing challenge. We're excited to go out there and show how hard we have been working for the past 19 months. There's talk of 10,000 people being in the crowd for Tuesday's game and that will obviously be to our advantage. You can say football is 11 v 11 but in our case we will have 10,011 on our side."