New Zealand 9, Fiji 1
Ngahue Reserve, Auckland, July 14 2017
In possibly the most obvious statement in blogging history, I feel compelled to point out that Glen Innes, Auckland, doesn’t have a lot in common with Rennes, France at the best of times. And in what will be an even more obvious statement to anyone who was in attendance at Ngahue Reserve yesterday for the Oceania Football Confederation Under 19 Women’s Championship, these weren’t exactly the best of times…
In Rennes yesterday it was 22 degrees and sunny. At Ngahue it felt like about 3 degrees at the most, the wind was howling in from the south over the old stone quarry and the second half of New Zealand’s tie with Fiji saw icy horizontal rain slapping spectators across the face as if to say “you think watching football at 10am on a weekday is a treat??? Ha! Take this fool!!!”
But if I thought I was uncomfortable, it was probably nothing compared to how some of the island teams felt. At one point the Papua New Guinea squad, used to life in the tropics, walked passed where I was standing. They were making noises that… if they resembled anything it was probably the closest thing I’ve heard to tortured lambs!
Why the comparison with Rennes though? Because that’s where whoever wins this tournament will be spending August next year – at the Under 20 Women’s World Cup. So, for the players, the suffering wasn’t for nothing.
Well, for the New Zealand players at least…
Because after two games out of the five on their schedule, the kiwis’ odds of going on to lift the trophy look about as rock solid as the mighty maunga, Mount Wellington, that Ngahue Reserve sits in the shadow of.
Looking at the other results so far, it seems clear that Fiji are the ‘best of the rest’, yet they were swept aside by the Junior Ferns yesterday with very little difficulty. In reality 9-1 probably flattered the team in white a little. New Zealand missed a lot of gilt edged chances and Fiji’s goal came from their only meaningful attack of the match.
It was 2-0 by the time seven minutes were up on the clock, after Hannah Blake and then Dayna Stevens netted almost nonchalantly in quick succession. Jacqui Hand made it three in the 14th minute before Michaela Foster struck from a free kick in the 21st and then Emma Main rounded the keeper to complete the first half scoring five minutes shy of the break.
The second half started much like the first with Blake knocking home her second in the 55th minute. The script then took a minor twist when Cema Nasau got on the end of a rare, to say the least, attacking foray from the Fijians to pull a goal back.
Normal service resumed after that though, when half time substitute Sam Tawharu got in on the scoring action with two rapid fire goals – the second from the penalty spot. She could have had three in a row too, but when given another chance from the spot she saw her shot nicely saved by Fijian keeper Ateca Tuwai. It was then Dayna Stevens who capped things off with the Ferns ninth and final goal with seven freezing minutes left to play.
I doubt anyone would have begrudged the fourth official ignoring the couple of injury stoppages and substitutions that had taken place in the second half and called time on the match at the end of the 90 before someone needed removing with an ice pick. As it was though, the three blasts of the whistle that allowed everyone concerned to escape the polar blasts we had all been enduring came, to everyone’s relief, after two minutes of time added on.
New Zealand’s next opponents are New Caledonia at 10am on Monday. They found themselves on the receiving end of a seven nil thrashing at the hands of the aforementioned tortured lambs in yesterday’s 12:30pm kick-off, so they have some work to do if they are going to be competitive against New Zealand.
The weather forecast says 15 degrees and partly cloudy though! That’s positively tropical by Ngahue standards. That might be ever so slightly closer to their favoured conditions but not by enough I don’t think…
Categories: Football Ferns
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.