“Unfinished business.” That was how New Zealand captain Anna Green described the ensuing FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup after the Junior Ferns sealed their place at Germany 2010.
She was speaking in the wake of an 11-0 win over Tonga that had secured a continental clean sweep for the Kiwis, but Green’s thoughts were not on her side’s continued regional dominance. Instead, the 19-year-old’s mind wandered back to their last appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, when a heartbreaking last-second equaliser against England denied New Zealand an historic quarter-final berth.
Erasing that painful memory is now the goal of a player who, along with her fellow Chile 2008 survivors and a fresh crop of U-20 stars, forms a generation of Kiwi women tipped to scale unprecedented heights. As Green said: “There’s unfinished business there. We’ve got the potential to qualify for the knockout stages, and hopefully we can prove that come July.”
The jewel in New Zealand’s crown is Rosie White, and the 16-year-old showed again at the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship why she is considered to be one of the players to watch at Germany 2010. A five-goal haul in the Junior Ferns’ emphatic deciding win over Tonga took White’s tally to nine in three games, and ensured the youngster walked away with an awards double as the tournament’s top scorer and best player.
However, coach Tony Readings was at pains to insist that New Zealand are far from a one-woman team. He said: “Rosie White is the obvious stand-out with five goals, I also thought Chelsea Wood played well at the back coming in for her first game. I’ve been pretty happy with most of the them, if not all of them, over the course of the three games.”
Readings certainly had every right to be satisfied after a continental tournament that ended with New Zealand having scored 27 times with no reply en route to three successive victories. Before sealing qualification by sweeping aside Tonga, the Kiwis had put eight unanswered goals past both American Samoa and the Cook Islands, leaving no-one in any doubt of their continental supremacy.
“We’ve got no complains about the way we qualified,” said Readings. “The players were professional throughout, we’ve kept three clean sheets and scored some good goals, so I’m very happy.”
The Kiwis’ 11-goal win also served to nudge Tonga into third place behind the Cook Islands, who climbed to second on the podium due to a superior goal difference. American Samoa, meanwhile, finished anchored to the bottom of the four-team section having lost all three of their fixtures.
Looking ahead, New Zealand’s qualification adds another piece to the Germany 2010 jigsaw, with UEFA quintet England, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland and the AFC trio of Japan, Korea DPR and Korea Republic already assured of their places. Next up to decide its entrants is CONCACAF, whose qualifying competition concludes this weekend in Guatemala City. Tomorrow's semi-finals will determine which two sides advance to become Germany 2010's tenth and 11th participants, with an additional slot up for grabs for whoever finishes third.