John Herdman’s team join Germany, who qualify automatically as hosts, fellow European nations England, Sweden, Norway and France, and Asian qualifiers Australia, Korea DPR and Japan as the sides to have confirmed their involvement in the 16-nation finals next June and July. It is the third time New Zealand has qualified for the event and the second in a row.
Herdman says his players’ desire to make it to Germany was very strong.
“We didn’t have to motivate them,” he says. “They’ve been working hard for this for two years and they just put their foot to the floor from the first minute today and really punished Papua New Guinea.”
Ali Riley got the Ferns off to a good start with her first goal for New Zealand in the seventh minute and they were three goals ahead within 18 minutes after further strikes to Rosie White and Ria Percival. White added three more to take her tournament tally to seven while two goals to Hannah Wilkinson and one each from Sarah Gregorius, Amber Hearn and Hayley Moorwood completed the scoring.
The Ferns laboured to a 2-0 win the last time the sides met for an Olympic Games qualifier two years ago and Herdman was relieved to see things go more to plan this afternoon.
“We just couldn’t get an early goal against them over there – the longer it took the more worried we were. The early goals today meant it was never in doubt,” he says.
“We weren’t sure how it would go because Papua New Guinea have really pushed on over the last couple of years but so have we. We play a much better brand of football now.”
Four-goal hero White was delighted about the manner in which her team secured their World Cup spot.
“We’ve done it in style,” she says. “We weren’t expecting to beat these girls by that much. But we wanted to score a lot of goals and that’s exactly what we did. The World Cup is the biggest women’s event in the world so you can’t really explain what it feels like to be there.”
Papua New Guinea coach Francis Moyap was disappointed that his charges didn’t put up more of a fight but admits they were never in the contest.
“The girls tried their best but New Zealand were just too good for us – they played exceptionally well,” he says. “They will be representing our region at the World Cup so we wish them all the best.”
The Football Ferns weren’t the only team to enjoy the limelight today.
The youthful Cook Islanders rounded off an historic campaign by becoming the first team from their country to pick up a medal at an international tournament. They earned bronze with a 2-0 win over Solomon Islands in the 3rd/4th playoff, captain Mama Henry and striker Regina Mustonen scoring the goals.
“We spoke about pressuring the Solomon players and not letting them play and it worked,” says coach Jimmy Katoa.
“We thought if we kept pressing them they would crack a couple of times and they did,” adds Katoa, who singled out Henry, Mustonen, Tekura Tutai and goalkeeper Marjorie Toru as his team’s best performers.
Toru received further recognition at the post-final awards ceremony, picking up the Golden Glove as the competition’s most impressive goalkeeper. New Zealand players received the other two awards, Amber Hearn getting the Golden Boot for her 12 strikes and fullback Ria Percival earning the Player of the Tournament.
The Football Ferns’ focus now switches to the Peace Queen Cup, which takes place later this month in the Republic of Korea, while the other island nations will turn their attentions to preparing for the 2011 South Pacific Games, to be held in New Caledonia during August and September.