New Zealand’s Football Ferns will target their last game at the SheBelieves Cup to take home some positives from the four-nation tournament.
Having lost both their opening games, New Zealand can not finish in the top two so their Thursday match against Czech Republic will be played for pride and whatever coach Jitka Klimková seeks to learn from what is now a ‘dead rubber’ fixture.
The winner of the match will secure third place in the group.
The tournament is a critical step in the Fern’s build-up to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the structure of competition was designed to replicate the pressure of a group at the finals.
In that respect, the New Zealand camp will have been reminded of the cut-throat nature of group play, where every result – every goal, in fact – can be the end of a tournament.
In their second match, the Ferns again paid dearly for conceding early goals.
World champions United States went 2-0 up within six minutes, both goals being own goals by New Zealand defender Meikayla Moore. Half an hour late, Moore netted at the wrong end again, giving the home team a 3-0 lead at half-time.
The States made six changes in the second half, relishing the opportunity to experiment with the result safe. Two more goals stretched the winning margin to 5-0.
The poor start by New Zealand was reminiscent of the tournament opener when a goal by midfielder Dagný Brynjarsdóttir gave Iceland a lead and her goal turned out to be all that separated Iceland from the Ferns.
Once the West Ham United player scored, the Icelanders coped well against a New Zealand team that enjoyed 56% of the game’s possession.
Hosts United States went into the tournament as hot favourites, having won four of the six SheBelieves Cup tournaments held since 2016, including the last two.
The US finished ahead of Brazil, Canada and Argentina at the 2021 event, used as a warm-up for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Here’s your guide to the tournament:
All dates/times are NZT
Friday February 18
RESULT: Iceland 1, New Zealand 0 (Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, California)
RESULT: United States 0, Czech Republic 0
Monday February 21
RESULT: United States 5 New Zealand 0
RESULT: Czech Republic 1 Iceland 2
Thursday February 24
12-noon New Zealand v Czech Republic (live Sky Sport 7 from Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas)
3pm United States v Iceland
Jitka Klimková ‘playing to win’
Prior to the tournament, Football Ferns head coach Jitka Klimková vowed her squad would go into every game with a winning attitude, resisting the temptation to fall back and “play not to lose”.
Watch this 5-min video interview with coach Klimková and Ferns captain Ali Riley:
Current FIFA world ranking: 22nd
Head coach Jitka Klimková has named a 22-player Ferns squad that includes 17 players who competed at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The only uncapped player is Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Lily Alfeld.
Figures in brackets indicate number of international appearances/goals
Lily Alfeld; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ (0/0)
Victoria Esson; SC Sand, Germany (4/0)
Erin Nayler; Umeå IK, Sweden (74/0)
Elizabeth Anton; Perth Glory FC, Australia (5/0)
CJ Bott; Unattached (31/1)
Katie Bowen; North Carolina Courage, USA (77/3)
Claudia Bunge; Melbourne Victory FC, Australia (5/0)
Abby Erceg; North Carolina Courage, USA (144/6)
Meikayla Moore; Liverpool FC, England (48/3)
Ali Riley; Angel City FC, USA (140/1)
Rebekah Stott; Melbourne City FC, Australia (81/4)
Ashleigh Ward; Actonians LFC, England (1/0)
Ria Percival; Tottenham Hotspur FC, England (157/15)
Daisy Cleverley; Unattached (16/2)
Betsy Hassett; Stjarnan, Iceland (126/14)
Malia Steinmetz; Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Australia (4/0)
Olivia Chance; Celtic FC, Scotland (26/1)
Ava Collins; St John’s University, USA (4/0)
Jacqui Hand; Unattached (4/1)
Gabi Rennie; Arizona State University, USA (7/2)
Emma Rolston; Unattached (8/6)
Paige Satchell; Sydney FC, Australia (23/2)
Hannah Wilkinson; Melbourne City FC, Australia (100/26)
Hannah Blake; University of Michigan, USA (5/0)
Player to watch: Rebekah Stott
A year after being diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Stott has been recalled to the Football Ferns.
Her comeback saw her return to the Australian women’s league last August, turning out for Melbourne City and showing she’s still more than capable at 28.
She’s played more than 80 internationals for New Zealand since her 2012 debut.
The skipper: Ali Riley
Captain Ali Riley will stay in California after the completion of the tournament, having joined glamour new club Angel City FC.
The 34-year-old defender joins the National Womens’ Soccer League extension club that’s owned by Hollywood stars and top women athletes.
The veteran: Ria Percival
With 157 Ferns appearances going into the tournament, Ria Percival is New Zealand’s most experienced player.
On the eve of departing for the SheBelieves Cup, she scored for her Tottenham Hotspur side in the English Women’s Super League.
Current FIFA world ranking: 1st
The US squad brings in a few lesser-known players but will be well-prepared. Competition for World Cup places will ensure players will not take any of the tournament games lightly.
Figures in brackets indicate number of international appearances/goals
Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 0/0)
Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 2/0)
Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 78/0)
Alana Cook (OL Reign; 4/0)
Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 45/1)
Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 8/0)
Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 9/0)
Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 148/2)
Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 63/0)
Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 199/0)
Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8)
Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC; 2/0)
Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 68/18)
Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, France; 12/3)
Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 33/4)
Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 2/0)
Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 22/2)
Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 4/2)
Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 67/18)
Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 9/2)
Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 0/0)
Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1)
Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 45/14)
Player to watch: Trinity Rodman
Rodman (19) is the fastest-rising star of US women’s football and was a late call-up to the SheBelives Cup squad. The daughter of basketball and reality television star Dennis Rodman, she recently signed a US$1.1 million deal with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) champions Washington Spirit.
Current FIFA world ranking: 24th
The Czech squad includes domestic-based players and others who play abroad in United Kingdom, Spain, France and Italy.
New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková is a former Czech international and will lead the Ferns against her old team for the first time.
Goalkeepers: Olivie Lukasova, Alexandra Vanickova, Barbora Votikova.
Defenders: Petra Bertholdova, Anna Dlaskova, Jitka Chlastakova, Lucie Jelinkova, Michaela Khyrova, Katerina Kotrcova, Simona Necidova, Gabriela Slajsova.
Midfielders: Klara Cahynova, Franny Cerna, Kamila Dubcova, Tereza Krejcirikova, Aneta Pochmanova, Antoine Starova, Katerina Svitkova, Tereza Szewieczkova.
Forwards: Klara Cvrckova, Lucie Martinkova, Miroslava Mrazova, Andrea Staskova.
Player to watch: Lucie Martinkova
The Sparta Prague forward is the Republic’s most capped player with 113 international appearances. Now 35, she’s a three-time Czech Footballer of the Year.
Current FIFA world ranking: 16th
Coach Thorsteinn Halldorsson calls on a squad of 23 players drawn from six countries – Iceland, Germany, Norway, England, Sweden and the United States.
Goalkeepers: Sandra Sigurdardottir, Cecilia Ran Runarsdottir, Telma Ivarsdottir.
Defenders: Hallbera Gudny Gisladottir, Glodis Perla Viggosdottir, Sif Atladottir, Elisa Vidarsdottir, Ingibjorg Sigurdardottir, Gudrun Arnardottir, Asta Eir Arnadottir, Natasha Anasi.
Midfielders: Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Gunnhildur Yrsa Jonsdottir, Agla María Albertsdottir, Alexandra Johannsdottir, Selma Sol Magnusdottir, Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir, Karitas Tomasdottir, Amanda Andradottir, Ida Marin Hermannsdottir.
Forwards: Berglind Bjorg Thorvaldsdottir, Svava Ros Gudmundsdottir, Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir.
Player to watch: Dagny Brynjarsdottir
The veteran midfielder, now 30, plays for West Ham United in the England women’s Super League after three seasons in the US National Women’s Soccer League with the Portland Thorns. She missed the 2018 season, giving birth, but has resumed her career with success and will play her 100th international if she plays all three games in the tournament.