With a comprehensive 8-0 victory over Papua New Guinea yesterday the New Zealand U-20 women’s team signalled their intentions for next month’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
The two Oceania contenders came head-to-head in a friendly match at Mangere Centre Park with the Kiwi side taking little time to show their dominance.
The New Zealanders pressed into the PNG half and scored three early goals off Jasmine Pereira’s foot.
They were able to capitalise on several defensive errors, with Pereira scoring off a dropped ball from Lace Kunei in the first half and Jade Parris winning a one-on-one with Lavina Hula in the second half.
Despite dominance from the Kiwi side, Papua New Guinea had moments of strong possession in the New Zealand half, with several long range attempts from Ramona Padio unlucky to miss the back of the net.
The PNG defence had their work cut out for them with the likes of Paige Satchell and Tayla Christensen both proving dangerous on the wings, but their judgement on crosses and quick clearances from Hilda Nake saw keepers Hula and Kunei preventing several attempts at goal.
New Zealand had a significant 5-0 lead when the half time whistle blew, but the young PNG side came back to the field in full energy and held out the Oceania champions to an 8-0 final score.
Despite the high scoreline, PNG coach Lisa Cole was proud of the young team’s efforts, but plans to turn focus on minimalising defensive errors to avoid conceding easy goals.
“I think there were some great New Zealand goals but I also think there were goals that were way too easy,” she said.
“Individual mistakes were made by players and players were not staying in their shape so that’s what we’re looking to eliminate as we lead into the World Cup,” she added.
“We need to force teams to be great, and if they’re great and they beat us, good, but we can’t just give them goals.”
Cole also acknowledged the short time the PNG team has had together, and the significant progress the young team has made despite the end result of the match.
“We’ve only been playing for the past six months. Six or seven months of training doesn’t catch up with what New Zealand’s been doing in their development programme,” she said.
“We were putting passes together, we didn’t just get it and kick and run, or we didn’t just get it and have one player try to dribble it past the whole team.
“There were opportunities that were created by us passing and moving the ball where as in the US game before the OFC Nations Cup, we were just trying to get the ball out of bounds or trying to get it away from players so that we could rest a little bit.
“Our fitness has improved and I think our confidence on the ball has improved.”
New Zealand U-20 Women’s coach Leon Birnie agreed that the scoreline was a poor reflection on the game, disappointed in the dropped standard of play seen in previous matches.
“The score is irrelevant today, I actually thought our performance wasn’t very good. We’ve been good coming in to this and I thought we were off the pace today for our normal standards,” he said.
“I thought at times PNG caused us some problems especially one-on-one defending and physically I thought that they were dominant in that area right through the game and I was a little bit disappointed with our girls in that aspect,” he added.
“I think it’s a good challenge now for the girls to get back on to the standards that we’ve set ourselves for our upcoming Mexico games.”
The New Zealand U-20 Women’s team will play two games against Mexico in their last opportunity to fine-tune before they face the USA, Ghana and France in Group C of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
The PNG U-20 Women’s team will play two more games against the New Zealand Development squad at McLennan Park in Papakura on 2 November and 5 November, before heading home to contend in a very competitive Group A against Brazil, Sweden and North Korea.