Ferns won’t dwell on torrid US losses as next warm-up matches come quickly

Andrew Voerman



Stuff NZ Newspapers



The Football Ferns spent quite a lot of time in huddles yesterday afternoon at Eden Park, as they lost heavily to the United States for the second time in the space of three days. First there were huddles after each of the five goals they conceded in the 5-0 defeat, then there was the huddle at fulltime, where coach Jitka Klimkova´ gathered her players and sent them on their way with a parting message. ‘‘This is the beginning of 2023,’’ was what she said that message was afterwards, referencing the fact that everything they do this year will revolve around the Fifa Women’s World Cup, being cohosted by New Zealand and Australia in July and August. ‘‘That was the biggest message and I asked the players what they thought about the tour and everybody actually put a smile on their faces and looked for the positives, looked for those successes that we had.’’ Those successes were few and far between across 180 minutes of football where the US had 72% of possession and took 37 shots – 17 of them on target – to New Zealand’s two. The Football Ferns literally didn’t fire a shot in 90 minutes at Eden Park and neither of the ones they fired at Sky Stadium came close to causing any concern. In Wellington, some of the goals they conceded were spectacular, most notably Alex Morgan’s finish from Rose Lavell’s backheeled through-ball, but in Auckland, the defending left a lot to be desired. Defender Anna Green joined goalkeeper Erin Nayler, midfielder Olivia Chance and forward Gabi Rennie in playing every minute across the two matches, both played in front of record crowds. She fared better than might have been expected, seeing as she has barely featured for Sydney FC this A-League season, and Klimkova´ pointed to her as one example of a player who impressed. With regard to the 5-0 scoreline, Green said: ‘‘It’s always disappointing to lose 5-0, but we’re not going to dwell on that’’. ‘‘As a group it was just about holding onto the positives and staying in touch with what our game plan was and trying to get better. ‘‘Every training session, every game that we are together is an opportunity to grow. ‘‘I think the beauty of this tour is we’ve done that and we’ve done that with maybe 10, 11, 12 people that might not normally be part of the starting XI or might not normally be part of the squad. ‘‘They’ve just fitted in really seamlessly. ‘‘I think that’s something that we are really going to take out of this tour – it’s been such an amazing opportunity to get a group of players together that might not normally be together and everyone’s just sort of got on with it, pulled their socks up and done the best that they can. ‘‘I think that’s something that we should be proud of as a team and as a nation as well.’’ Having suffered a pair of inevitable losses to the US, where the highlight was keeping them scoreless for 52 minutes in Wellington, the focus now turns to assembling in Hamilton on February 13, ahead of matches there against No 22 Portugal and No 29 Argentina on February 17 and 20, before shifting north to Auckland to play Argentina again on February 23. They are the first of six fixtures the Ferns will have between now and their World Cup opener against Norway on July 20 back at Eden Park. After Klimkova´ talked up the gains she was asked in her post-match conference whether there would be a shift to needing results next month and her initial answer was simple. ‘‘Yes.’’