New Zealand have enjoyed a strong relationship with the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and Japan 2012 will mark their fourth appearance across the six tournaments held to date. Their debut at Russia 2006 - a first FIFA Women’s tournament appearance in 15 years - proved a solid return to the world stage, with the team claiming their maiden point in drawing against a strong Brazil side. Two years later in Chile, New Zealand were moments from creating history as the first male or female team from the nation to reach the knockout stage of a FIFA tournament, only to be denied by an England injury-time equaliser in the final group match. Germany 2010 proved somewhat of a disappointment with the team suffering three defeats, however the tournament provided a springboard for several of the players to return a year later at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, having successfully made the transition to the senior side.
International outings have been rare for the Junior Football Ferns but the team turned in three consistent performances in qualifying to cruise to the Oceania crown. New Zealand’s continued improvement in recent years was exemplified with their one-sided 6-0 victory against Papua New Guinea; a nation long considered the main challenger to the Kiwis’ continental dominance.
Despite an undemanding qualification campaign and a heavy defeat suffered against USA during the final months of preparation, New Zealand are well prepared for a breakthrough showing. The team have effectively been in camp throughout 2012 allowing coach Aaron McFarland a rare opportunity to work on structure and team cohesion. The current crop also, unlike some previous generations, have numerous proven goalscoring outlets. Rosie White and Hannah Wilkinson head an impressive of attacking arsenal, with the pair also possessing significant senior national team experience.
Facts and figures
Ali Riley (2006), Abby Erceg (2006-2008), Betsy Hassett (2008-2010)
Rosie White (forward), Hannah Wilkinson (forward), Kate Loye (midfielder)
28 – The number of goals scored by New Zealand in their three qualifying matches.