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My two countries

New Zealand A 1, USA Under 19 2
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, June 14 2016

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The last time my two counties played on the same day…… Well, it doesn’t bear remembering really…

When I heard that the USA Under 19 women’s national team would be touring New Zealand, and that the first game in the three game series was set down for the same day that Italy would open its Euro 2016 campaign, the first thing I did was ask for a day off work. How could I not? It was too good an opportunity to have a brilliant day.

It was a risk of course. Italy are notoriously slow starters in big tournaments, our squad isn’t the most awe inspiring ever assembled, and we were playing a highly fancied team in Belgium. What if we had lost? Would I have been sorely tempted to crawl back into bed afterwards and not come out until I had to go to work the next day? I think so!

I need not have worried though. Arriving at the only place to watch gli Azzurri in Auckland, Gina’s Italian Kitchen on Symonds Street, the first face I saw was that of Stefano Virgili – who had come all the way from Kaeo for the occasion. The two of us had a whale of a time living and breathing every last minute of a fantastic Italia victory built on a foundation of gorgeous defence from the all Juventus back three.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of release when your team wins a massively important game. The weight of the world lifts off your shoulders and you float on air. I had been scared witless that we would concede in injury time and end up with a draw, so when that Graziano Pellè goal hit the back of the net to make it 2-0 – that’s the best feeling in the world.

Needless to say that I was still feeling like a hundred billion dollars when I bounced into North Harbour Stadium to watch my other country play!

We are very fortunate indeed to have a team in New Zealand right now representing the world’s number one women’s footballing nation. USA’s under 19s are here on a whistle stop tour of New Zealand – if you can call only playing at one stadium a tour! There are three games this week, all at North Harbour Stadium and all free to get into. After today’s game against New Zealand A they play our under 20’s on Friday and Sunday – both at 2pm.

There have been some murmurs of complaint about the time of day when most people are at work but with my privileged position of a high leave balance and a flexible employer I was very happy indeed to have the opportunity to shoot some photos of these world class players in natural light!

On paper this looked like an Olympic trial as much as anything else, with New Zealand fielding a side that had a great mix of full internationals, senior fringe players and young guns from the Under 20s. We started with the vast bulk of the experienced Ferns on the pitch and they dominated their young opponents as you might expect, picking up a goal via Jane Barnett inside the first ten minutes.

But USA came into the game more and more as proceedings wore on and the unlimited subs were rolled out. In the end, Marrissa Everett’s second half double saw her side come from behind to grab a deserved win. But in true terrible loser style, I’m saying it doesn’t matter because it was a friendly, the players learned a lot from the experience and there are still two more games to go!

Nothing can dampen my mood today…

Categories: Azzurri 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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