New Zealand's U-20 squad are already history-makers. They are the first female team to represent the country at an age-group world championship. However, this claim to fame is not quite enough for the determined Kiwis, who are eager to make their mark on the competition, not just for themselves, but for their country.

New Zealand Soccer's official website claims that the squad is 'arguably the best prepared team to depart New Zealand since John Adshead's 1982 FIFA World Cup team.' However, despite their extensive preparations, Adshead's All Whites failed to qualify for the knockout phase. In fact, no team from New Zealand has ever progressed beyond the group stages of a FIFA tournament. 

This is the challenge that New Zealand have set themselves in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship, but they are under no illusions as to the enormity of their task.

"We've got players such as Kirsty Yallop, Emma Humphries and Sarah Gregorius who I'm sure would be chosen for any of the other teams in this tournament," coach John Herdman told FIFA.com.

"It's going to take every last ounce of their potential to qualify for the quarter-finals, but we believe we can do it. Every single one of the girls is confident that we have the ability to defeat Australia, Brazil and Russia. But to be successful and to achieve our targets, they will have to perform to a new level." 

We are family
Under the guidance of Herdman, the team have lived, trained and socialised together since January and have been on tours to Australia, Argentina and the Netherlands in a bid to further their footballing education. They qualified for Russia in April, scoring 33 goals and conceding just one in Oceania's preliminary stage.

"The girls' major strengths are team-spirit, belief and character," continued Herdman. "That's come to the fore over the past six months. They are a young group, but they have matured as players and as people so much since coming together in January. I believe in them.

"In the build up to the tournament we've played two good women's teams from the Netherlands and, although the results haven't gone our way, the girls have been taken out of the comfort zone. They have played against two physical teams, who can move the ball around quickly and that is ideal preparation for this championship."

Herdman's skipper, Yallop, agrees. "When we heard the draw for the competition, we were all ecstatic," she said. "Each of the games are going to be special for different reasons. Everyone wants to play Brazil, the atmosphere on the pitch is going to be special when we play Australia and I'm hoping for a good atmosphere off from the crowd when we play Russia.

"We played Australia twice in February and lost 4-1 and 3-0, but I believe that we've become a lot stronger since then. We've moved on and learnt a lot. We have a fantastic coach who has prepared us well for this competition, and I'm confident that we can reach the quarter-finals."