New Zealand have participated in just one previous Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, which was at Beijing four years ago. Despite a modest showing that included two losses, New Zealand secured a draw against eventual semi-finalists Japan in a tournament which proved a springboard for the Nadeshiko’s future success. So too Beijing 2008 was a stepping-stone for the Kiwis with the result against Japan being their first point on the world stage.
New Zealand have improved markedly with each passing year since Beijing 2008 as evidenced by a string of impressive international results, highlighted by last year’s highly competitive showing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany™. A host of national term personnel have made the move to some of the world’s best leagues over the past 12 months, which, says coach Tony Readings, is providing major benefits to the Football Ferns. The team’s growth could be measured in a number of ways, not least their 15-0 aggregate play-off win against Papua New Guinea, which contrasts with a hard-earned 2-0 win four years earlier against the same opponent.
Opponents underestimate New Zealand at their peril, and while the Kiwis have yet to secure a victory on the world stage, there is a sense such a breakthrough is not far off. The national team is starting to take on a stable look with a couple of key youngsters, such as Rosie White and Hannah Wilkinson, pushing for selection and adding to the depth. It seems there is a sense of unity and purpose within the Football Ferns ranks with Readings saying “we’re confident we’ve shown that we will be more than competitive at the Olympics.”
Facts and figures
Marlies Oostdam, Rebecca Tegg, Emily McColl
Abby Erceg (defender), Rebecca Smith (defender), Ria Percival (defender), Amber Hearn (forward)
As No1 nation in Oceania, New Zealand were seeded into the play-off to face Papua New Guinea, the winner of Stage 1. Despite a strong history of achievement in the continent PNG proved no match for New Zealand, who won 8-0 and 7-0 for an emphatic aggregate win.
The numbers game
9 – Of the 15 goals scored in reaching London, New Zealand had nine different names on the scoresheet with Sarah Gregorius hitting the net three times.