History will be made in Auckland's North Harbour Stadium tomorrow when hosts New Zealand and Canada contest the first-ever match in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup‘s short history.
The meeting between the Young Football Ferns and the Canucks should certainly provide a fitting curtain-raiser for FIFA's newest tournament, with both coaches vowing to go on the attack in search of maximum points. Canada's Bryan Rosenfeld says that his team have arrived in the South Pacific with dreams of "going the distance", while Paul Temple, the man at New Zealand's helm, has admitted that this opening match will likely "set the tone" for his side's bid to make history.
The big game*New Zealand-Canada, Tuesday 28 October, 19.00 local time, Auckland
With New Zealand having qualified automatically as hosts, this will be Temple's side's competitive debut, and it promises to be a baptism of fire. Canada might have finished third in the CONCACAF qualifiers but Rosenfeld has been at pains to stress the improvement in his side since those July preliminaries. New Zealand's captain, centre-half Bri Fisher, can certainly expect a tough tussle with Tiffany Cameron, the free-scoring star of the North Americans' qualifying campaign.
The hosts, meanwhile, go into the match nursing "one or two knocks", according to their coach, with the most significant worry over the fitness of No1 goalkeeper Charlotte Wood. Nevertheless, Temple insists the Kiwis are "the best they've ever been", and with fit-again striker Rosie White in sparkling form, they are hopeful of kicking their campaign off a morale-boosting win.
The stat 3 appearances at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Russia 2006 and one at last year's senior showpiece in China make the hosts' Annalie Longo the most experienced player on show at New Zealand 2008. The midfielder is, in fact, the only participant with any FIFA World Cup experience, and she will add another tournament to her impressive record when she travels to the U-20 finals in Chile next month.
What they said"We're quietly confident. The first game always sets the tone for a tournament but it will be all the more important for us as hosts because there will inevitably be a lot of nerves and anticipation. New Zealand is known for loving winners, so if we win, it could really get people up for the tournament and kick us on to bigger and better things," Paul Temple, New Zealand coach.