GRENOBLE – Canada and New Zealand will renew acquaintances Saturday at Stade des Alpes in Group E action. Canada will be looking to build off a 1-0 win over Cameroon, while New Zealand will try and bounce back from a heartbreaking 1-0 stoppage time loss to the Netherlands.
Four years ago, Canada and New Zealand battled to a nil-nil draw at the 2015 World Cup in Canada. New Zealand had a chance to upset the hosts, but a missed penalty, and a bevy of thunderstorms disrupted the Kiwis from making history.
No. 19 ranked, New Zealand, have participated in five World Cup tournaments. They have yet to taste victory with a 0-10-3 record. There have been some close calls, but results just haven’t gone the Football Ferns way.
Skipper, Ali Riley, knows how wonderful a win would be.
“It would mean everything,” Riley said during New Zealand’s press conference. “That’s obviously our biggest goal coming into the tournament. Being close a few times in the first game, and it not panning out the way we had hoped, it still gives us confidence going into this game. It’s three games, we have three chances to win. If we can win the next two we’ll be in a brilliant position. Even a point from Canada, and a win against Cameroon sees us making history, and potentially getting out of the group. We’re in a really good headspace right now. I can’t wait to experience that first win.”
“It would feel amazing,” Goalkeeper, Erin Nayler, explained to The Equalizer.“We’ve been so close so many times, and we definitely deserve it. If we can get three points out of this game, we’ll be even more confident going into Cameroon, and getting through the group.”
Canada coach, Kenneth Heiner-Møller, will be hoping his can continue its strong defensive play. Canada is 7-0-2 in 2019, only conceding once. Defense is a big part of what’s helped Canada this year. The other is of course, Christine Sinclair. She was kept off the scoresheet vs Cameroon. It will be up to the Football Ferns to try and do the same.
— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) June 14, 2019
“She seems to get better, as she gets older,” New Zealand Coach, Tom Sermanni, explained. “She’s just such a clever player. She knows where to be at the right time, in the right space, and with the right timing. I think that’s helped her longevity in the game. She uses the talent that she’s got extremely effectively, and efficiently. It’s her ability to read the game that sets her apart from most other players.”
The 27-year-old, Nayler, earned ‘Player of the Match’ honors when Canada and New Zealand met at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. There is no easy way to stop Sinclair, but Nayler believes it will take a complete team effort.
“She’s a very clinical striker,” Nayler explained. “I think it’s just our back-four being aware of where she is at all times. Not letting her have a free reign on the ball, and stopping her shots at goal. Being in the way, blocking her shots, just staying with her.”
“They have a solid defense, solid attackers as well,” Katie Bowen said. “They’ve got a legend playing, Christine Sinclair. We’ve got to stop her. We’re just going to play our game. Can’t tell you exactly what our game plan is, but we’ve just got to execute it on the day.”
— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) June 14, 2019
Canada will be expecting a much tougher test than what Cameroon offered. New Zealand is a well organized side that will look to hurt Canada on the counter. While Cameroon didn’t muster anything in transition, New Zealand could have a stronger break out.
“I think that they might be doing that,” Heiner-Møller explained. “It will be a very different approach. They have pace up front, but not that kind of pace as Cameroon did. The structure will be different because they’re still very man oriented, and New Zealand is not like that. They’re more European schooled. It’s more about zones. It might be the same, they’re sitting deep, but they’re defending in a totally different way.”
“I think they’ll be strong defensively,” Shelina Zadorsky said. “They’ll be more organized than Cameroon, and we’re going to have to break them down successfully. They also have a solid counter attack, and people who can put away goals. We’ll have to be very strong defensively and break them down.”
The Football Ferns are at a crucial juncture. They need a result, preferably a win. A loss would be devastating for New Zealand, and that’s why this match is massively important to them. No. 5 ranked Canada come in as the favorites. It’s up to New Zealand to turn up.
“We need to try and get something out of it,” Sermanni admitted. “This is a three game tournament for us. The aim is to try and win a game, qualify for the next round. Whether that be three points, four points, or six points. I don’t know. Whatever happens in the game against Canada, we’ll need to re-group, and get ready for the Cameroon game.”
One might say, it’s a must win game for New Zealand.
“Absolutely, yup,” Bowen agreed.
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