June 21, 2011

Group B Preview: New Zealand

New Zealand (#24)
Region: OFC
Coach: John Herdman
How They Qualified: Won OFC Nations Cup.
Prior Cups:
2007: Group Stage
2003: DNQ
1999: DNQ
1995: DNQ
1991: Group Stage
Returnees from 2007 WWC: (8) Bindon, Erceg, Hoyle, Longo, Moorwood, Percival, Riley, Smith.

Roster (Average Age: 25.70)
Jenny BindonGKHibiscus Coast3854/0
Aroon ClanseyGKThree Kings Utd.245/0
Erin NaylerGKEastern Suburbs190/0
Abby ErcegDFFencibles Utd.2156/4
Anna GreenDFThree Kings Utd.2036/4
Kristy HillDFFencibles Utd.3117/0
Ria PercivalDFLynn-Avon Utd.2153/7
Ali RileyDFWNY Flash2346/1
Rebecca SmithDFWolfsburg3052/2
Kate BowenMFGlenfield Rovers171/0
Betsy HassettMFCal-Berkeley2022/2
Katie HoyleMFGlenfield Rovers2345/1
Annalie LongoMFThree Kings Utd.1929/0
Hayley MoorwoodMFChelsea2763/7
Kirsty YallopMFFencibles Utd.2447/11
Sarah GregoriusFWEastern Suburbs2312/8
Amber HearnFWLynn-Avon Utd.2642/21
Emma KeteFWThree Kings Utd.2339/3
Sarah McLaughlinFWClaudelands Rovers208/0
Rosie WhiteFWThree Kings Utd.1826/7
Hannah WilkinsonFWGlenfield Rovers1918/8

Recent Matches:
6/20/11DenmarkMatchworldL 0-1
6/18/11ColombiaMatchworldW 1-0
6/15/11WalesMatchworldW 2-0
5/20/11ChinaFriendlyL 0-1
5/15/11AustraliaFriendlyL 1-2
5/12/11AustraliaFriendlyL 0-3
3/9/11MexicoCyprusL 0-5
3/7/11FranceCyprusL 2-5
3/4/11SwitzerlandCyprusW 2-1
3/2/11HollandCyprusL 1-4
10/21/10EnglandPeace CupT 0-0
10/17/10Korea RepublicPeace CupT 0-0
10/8/10Papua New GuineaOFC Nations CupW 11-0
10/6/10Solomon IslandsOFC Nations CupW 8-0
10/3/10TahitiOFC Nations CupW 7-0
10/1/10Cook IslandsOFC Nations CupW 10-0
9/29/10VanuatuOFC Nations CupW 14-0

New Zealand qualified for the World Cup by sweeping through through the OFC Nations Cup, which quite frankly isn’t all that competitive, by outscoring their opponents by a 50-0 margin. This will mark the Football Ferns’ third trip to the World Cup.

They competed in China four years ago, losing all three group stage games and scoring nary a goal. They were tied at half in the matches against both China and Denmark, and only down one at the half against Brazil. The team has had a fairly hefty turnover since then. Only eight players from that 2007 team return for 2011. Five of those eight were teenagers for the 2007 Cup, including Western New York Flash defender Ali Riley. They are certainly one of the youngest teams going to Germany.

So perhaps it would be expecting a bit much for this team to go far in this tournament. More importantly, can this team make strides toward the future.

They showed some progress last fall by holding fellow World Cup qualifier England and a reasonably strong Korea Republic teams to scoreless draws at the Peace Cup. They then managed to defeat Switzerland at the Cyprus Cup, going 1-3 in that competition. Unfortunately, a 5-0 loss to Mexico dampened that accomplishment somewhat. Since then, they have played close matches with China, Australia, and Denmark and earned a pair of wins over Colombia and Wales.

There is no doubt that New Zealand has some good players and Riley is certainly a world-class talent at outside back. Other players have made their mark around the world, Rebecca Smith at Wolfsburg in Germany and Hayley Moorwood at Chelsea in England. Both Smith and Moorwood are seasoned veterans and will be looked upon to lead this team on the field.

The goalkeeping duties will be up to the senior member of the Ferns, 38 year-old Jenny Bindon. The American born Bindon is steady in goal for New Zealand. At the Olympic Games in 2008, Bindon held three top teams, the United States, Norway, and Japan, to just seven goals.

The two goals for New Zealand at the Olympics in 2008 were scored by Kirsty Yallop and Amber Hearn, both of whom are on this team. Hearn had a phenomenal OFC Nations Cup, scoring 12 goals. Sarah Gregorius also had a very good OFC tournament, making her debut and scoring seven goals.

Injuries are certainly a concern for the Ferns with midfielder Betsy Hassett and striker Gregorius sitting out the last match.

It will be quite a challenge for New Zealand to advance past the group stage. Bindon will have to be sharp and they will have to keep mistakes to a minimum. They will need to play well against Mexico, a team that beat them by five goals just three months ago, and hope to steal a point or two from England and Japan. While it wouldn’t be an impossibility, this team may be four years away from its best soccer.

Note: Some information for this article was obtained on www.fifa.com and www.nzfootball.co.nz.