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A dark and scorey night

New Zealand 1, Brazil 1
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland, June 16 2014

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“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the pitch (for it is Mount Smart Stadium that our scene lies), rattling along the crossbars, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the floodlights that struggled against the darkness.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton with some minor alterations.

And so it was. Wet and miserable. Rather inconveniently so, it has to be said. A few expletives certainly passed my lips as I stood at the Southern end of Mount Smart with the rain pelting the crap out of me. My camera lens became hopelessly covered in water as all attempts to wipe it dry failed due to the cloth itself becoming little more than a sodden chamois. My glasses were rendered completely useless, which reduced me to squinting at white and yellow blurs through the downpour. Safe to say those were far and away the most difficult conditions I have persevered in at a game of football, including covering a match at the peak of the so-called Cyclone Lusi! But do you think I considered for one second abandoning my post? No sir!

Not when you have an opportunity to don media accreditation, FIFA bib, and take photographs from right down by the pitch during a football match featuring Brazil! This was a once in a lifetime event, and no amount of rain was ever going to stop me from savouring every moment.

According to one Mr J. Ruane, who on such matters is more reliable than a Swiss watch, this 6th ranked Brazilian Women’s National Team is the highest ranked football side of any gender ever to kick a ball on New Zealand soil. And while they may have been missing their star striker, Marta, in Cristiane the crowd of just under 2,000 got to witness a player who has twice been a finalist for FIFA  Women’s World Player of the Year.

But not only did we get the honour of seeing a real, live, living, breathing Brazilian football team play in New Zealand, we also got to see our own star studded Football Ferns, ranked a massive 20th in the world themselves (which in my humble opinion they don’t get anywhere near the credit they deserve for), not only compete with Brazil but for large periods quite simply dominate their more illustrious opponents. Normally you would hail a 1-1 draw as a magical result for a New Zealand side in a game like this. But actually, a 3-1 victory would have been a fair result in my view and it could have been so if a little bit more luck had gone our way.

Standing at the end that Brazil were attacking, I didn’t get to see much action at all in the opening 45 as the Ferns dominated possession and launched foray after foray into the Brazilian final third. Hannah Wilkinson in particular impressed as she made several incisive bursts that caused the opposing defence many a problem. Sadly though, as so often happens in situations like this, it only takes one attack to provide a turning point and in this case it came towards the end of the first half. A Cristiane shot forced a lovely diving save from Erin Nayler, but the resulting corner was driven into the post only to fall back into the path of Cristiane who made no mistake with her second attempt.

The second half was characterised by a few rash tackles and a bit of associated niggle but generally the Ferns continued their good play although the Brazilians also enjoyed their share of opportunities. Justice was served however with five minutes remaining in the match when a Hannah Wilkinson cross found Rosie White who was on the spot to nod home and draw the scores level. A late surge from Brazil couldn’t alter the result and New Zealand was able to savour a brilliant achievement against one of the world’s best.

What a night! Both goals were scored right in front of me and while it wasn’t possible to get any decent photos of either of them, it was worth every drop of rain to see (in a Mr Magoo kind of way) such quality football from such a close distance. My roar of approval when New Zealand scored even drew a pouty look from a Brazilian defender… I hope I didn’t breach any unwritten code of silence for sideline photographers with that one…

The Ferns now head to Taupo for game two of the two match series at Owen Delaney Park on Thursday night, surely happy in the knowledge that an historic victory is well within their reach. I would absolutely be there if work commitments didn’t necessitate me flying overhead on an Air New Zealand flight between Wellington and Auckland while the match is being played… Which leads me to this:

Dear Weather Gods,

Given the clear fact that you damn well owe me some sort of recompense for that freaking drenching last night, I wish you to know that I am prepared to accept payment in the form of the fogging up of Wellington Airport on Thursday night, necessitating me to hire a car and drive home. Via Taupo.

Kthxbai,

Enzo.

Categories: Football Ferns

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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