The Football Ferns have delivered an encouraging rehearsal for the FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 win against Vietnam in Napier.
The result broke a 10-match winless streak, provided the Ferns with their first win on home soil since 2012 and achieved their first clean sheet in 11 games.
Most importantly, the performance — especially in the first half — was impressive enough to give fans hope that they’ll have a fighting chance of getting out of their World Cup group, at least.
Captain for the night Ria Percival was commanding anchoring the midfield while Indiah Paige-Riley emerged as the team’s attacking threat.
The first half belonged to the New Zealanders who seemed to have a collective confidence and willingness to push forward from the start.
Vietnam made it easy for them, backpedalling and allowing the Ferns to keep possession.
New Zealand’s first chance was a Hannah Wilkinson header, easily taken by Vietnam ‘keeper Thi Kim Thanh.
In the 12th minute, Betsy Hassett shot wide.
The breakthrough deservedly came in the 17th minute when Percival took a short corner, and the ball lined up for fullback CJ Bott to launch a long-range speculator.
Her shot took a slight deflection and the ball sneaked inside the post, prompting a team celebration by a clearly relieved Ferns side.
Main photo: The Ferns mob CJ Bott, scorer of the opening goal.
The goal settled the New Zealanders and they built attack after attack, with Indiah Paige-Riley causing no end of problems for the Vietnam defenders.
In the 34th minute, Vietnam had their only chance of the half when Nguyen broke free but was slow to cue her shot and Katie Bowen made a crucial block.
A minute before half-time, the Ferns went two goals up.
The hard-working Hassett pushed a through ball for Paige-Riley to take forward and slide a perfectly-weighted pass across the face of the goal.
Jacqui Hand met the ball at the far post, belting it into the goal.
Vietnam might easily have conceded a third goal as the half went into stoppage time.
Paige-Riley’s shot was parried by ‘keeper Thanh; then, Hand missed a sitter as she mis-hit her shot from in front.
By comparison, the second half was tame.
Vietnam tried to be less cautious but did not really put New Zealand under pressure, while the Ferns lost momentum as coach Jitka Klimková made six second-half changes, clearly pre-determined to manage game time for players returning from injury.
The Ferns had eight shots on goal in the second half, compared to 19 in the first spell — a reflection of how the game dropped its intensity.
New Zealand seemed happy enough to control the last third of the game, keeping two-thirds of the possession and denying Vietnam opportunities.
The biggest cheer of the half came when the crowd heard 6,215 had attended the match.
As a rehearsal for the World Cup, the game served its purpose.
A first half that showed New Zealand can deliver at both ends of the pitch; a second half that demonstrated the team’s ability to manage out a game.
Hope has been restored …
(New Zealand / Vietnam)
Shots: 19 / 1
Shots on target: 9 / 0
Possession: 66% / 34%
Passes: 286 / 156
Pass accuracy: 88% / 61%
Fouls committed: 5 / 3
Offsides: 2 / 0
Corners: 7 / 0
(New Zealand / Vietnam)
Shots: 27 / 2
Shots on target: 12 / 0
Possession: 64% / 36%
Passes: 599 / 350
Pass accuracy: 85% / 64%
Fouls committed: 10 / 7
Offsides: 4 / 1
Corners: 7 /0
Game played on Monday July 10, 2023
Venue: McLean Park, Napier
New Zealand 2 (CJ Bott 17′, Jacqui Hand 44′)
Vic Esson, CJ Bott, Rebekah Stott (Claudia Bunge 68′), Katie Bowen, Ali Riley (Michaela Foster 68′), Ria Percival (captain) (Annalie Longo 68′), Betsy Hassett, Malia Steinmetz, Indiah Paige-Riley (Gabi Rennie 80′), Hannah Wilkinson (Olivia Chance 67′), Jacqui Hand (Milly Clegg 80′).
Subs not used: Erin Nayler, Anna Leat, Daisy Cleverley, Paige Satchell, Grace Jale, Liz Anton.
Thi Kim Thanh, Thi Thu Thuong (Thi Hai Linh 46′), Thi Diem My, Thi Thu, Thi Thu Thao (Thi Van Su 46′), Thi Bich Thuy (Thi Tuyet Dung 70′), Thi Loan, Thia Thanh Nha, Thi Van, Nhu (captain) (Thi Hoa 86′), Hai Yen (Thi Thuy Hang 70′).
Subs not used: Thi Kieu Oanh, Hang, Thi Kieu, Thi Thuy Nga, Thi Thuy Trang, Thi Thao, Thi My Anh.