Written By: Helena Wang
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New Zealand has made the past two World Cups in 2007 and 2011. While the team did not make it past the group stages in either World Cup, they were able to top the four-nation Oceania qualifying tournament for the 2015 World Cup. Coming off such a high, New Zealand is looking to improve upon their World Cup record. Ranked number 17 right now in the FIFA World Ranking, New Zealand is looking to advance out of the group stages for the first time in history (1).
History of New Zealand’s Women Football
New Zealand’s women soccer started off on a purely social level in the late 1960s and early 1970s (2). By 1973, organized competition with their own leagues was created in both Wellington and Auckland. This created a strong rivalry between the two North Island provinces, which led to a delay in forming a national association. It was not until 1975 when the New Zealand Women’s Football Association was created, when it received an invitation from the Asian Ladies Confederation to participate in the Asian Cup.
Held in Hong Kong, the 1975 Asian Cup was a hugely successful tournament for the New Zealand team. Against all the odds, they went all the way and won the cup (3). The team defeat the host nation 2-0, Malaysia 3-0, Australia 3-2, and in the final, Thailand 3-1. With such a successful start to the New Zealand team, it was soon considered an affiliate of the New Zealand Football Association, and became an incorporated society in 1979.
Soon after, New Zealand competed in the first World Women’s Invitational Tournament in Taiwan, which was the forerunner to the current FIFA World Cup. The Kiwis won six games and one draw, with their only loss coming in the final to the tournament winners, West Germany. After this competition, New Zealand became one of the four founding members of the Oceania Women’s Football Association, which decided during its inaugural meeting that the Oceania Nations Cup be played every three years. In the first one held in 1983, New Zealand was able to defeat Australia 3-2 in the final to confirm their leading place.
In 1991, New Zealand was able to qualify for the first FIFA World Cup held in China. Despite being drawn in the hardest group (Denmark, Norway and China), New Zealand went in with high hopes. However, they lost to all three teams and was unable to advance out of the group stage. After years of domination in Oceania, New Zealand did not seem to achieve the same success on the global stage, as they were unable to qualify for the 1995, 1999 or 2003 World Cups (4).
New Zealand did qualify for the 2007 World Cup, but drew another hard group that contained China, Brazil and Denmark. They lost all three games and were unable to advance out of the group stage.
2011 World Cup
After some disappointing results on the global stage, New Zealand regrouped and were able to make some progress as both players and a team in the world game. A testament to this was their performances at the 2011 World Cup. While they did not advance out of the group stage, this was their best showing in the World Cup. They were drawing level with eventual winners Japan before being beaten by an goal in the 2nd half, with the final score being 2-1. They also lost to England 2-1, a match which New Zealand led 1-0 at halftime.
The opening game of Group B in the 2011 World Cup between New Zealand and Japan
However, it was the game against Mexico that showed their progression as a team. The Kiwis were 2-0 down after the 89th minute. However, two players stepped up to score in overtime to lead to the final score of 2-2. It was the ultimate showcase, and achieved in such dramatic fashion that it felt like a win for New Zealand.
Looking Ahead: 2015 World Cup
Previous head coach John Herdman guided New Zealand to World Cup berths in both 2007 and 2011 (5). Since then, the team has gone on to advance all the way to the quarterfinals during the 2012 Olympics set in London. The team’s journey to the 2015 World Cup was easily conquered by recording a perfect three-match record in the Oceania qualifying tournament, which accrued 30 goals and saw no goals conceded.
Coming into the World Cup, the Ferns are a solid squad with talented exports abroad, such as defender Ria Percival ( FF USV Jena in Germany), captain Abby Ercig (Chicago Red Stars), and striker Amber Hearn (FF USV Jena) (6). These players who are abroad will add to the depth of the New Zealand team. The team has come a long way on the international stage in recent year, which has lead to this massive increase in the quantity of players going overseas. Although the team is still relatively young, they have had a lot of experience playing in the global sphere. They have an aggressive style of play that has proven to be very tough for stronger squads, such as Brazil (7). While there is no one headlining name on the team, the New Zealand team unity is very solid as evidenced by the numerous credible results in recent years.
Current coach, Tony Readings, has enjoyed several years coaching the nation’s U-2o side and thus, has a very strong background in New Zealand women’s soccer. He has continued to add youthful depth to the squad and has continued to slowly invigorate the team. Readings hopes to develop a modern brand of soccer while still boasting New Zealand’s traditional strengths. Coach Readings has said,
“We’ve moved a lot closer to the best teams in the world but there’s still a lot of untapped potential in our team.”
The 2015 World Cup is the perfect time for the New Zealand team to tap into that potential and hopefully finish strong since the last time it graced such heights on the world stage.
Player to Watch: Abby Erceg
Captain Abby Erceg will be coming back to the national team with a lot of experience under her belt, as she also played in the 2007 and 2011 World Cup (8). Since the 2011 World Cup, Erceg has played in the German women’s league and has most recently joined the National Women’s Soccer League in America, on the Chicago Red Stars team (9).
Abby Erceg introducing herself to the Chicago Red Stars fans
Through her long stint with the national team, she is currently the most capped New Zealand international footballer of all time (10). The skipper is still quite young at 25 years old, but she has been on the national team since she was 16 years old. One of the youngest players to reach 50 caps, Erceg did so at great pace, setting a record for 37 consecutive starting appearances from her debut in late 2006 until injury in 2009 ruled her out of a friendly in Japan.
For Erceg, being a part of the New Zealand team means experiencing something different. She says,
“When we come in we’re always new things happening, we’re implementing new tactics or girls have changed in their environments so it’s always changing and progressing. The coaches and staff are constantly pushing the boundaries of what we can do and what we can change.
It pushes us as players so we’ve got to adapt and they are only going to do things that help us so it’s exciting to see what they’ve done and see how it came improve our own game.”
Through her experience abroad, Erceg has been exposed to many different approaches to the game, which is something she hopes will help the Ferns during the tournament this year (11). She will be leading the team with aplomb in the upcoming matches but the central defender never loses sight of her focus on improving her own personal game. Erceg understands that with her performance getting better, the squad will also be able to drive their progress forward as whole. She says,
“I’ve got things I need to work on as well and I’m working with coaches to make sure that happens. Because although I’m looking after other people, I still have a role to do in the team as well and if I can’t do that then it’s harder for me to help the other girls.”
This kind of selfless and leadership behavior is what will help New Zealand go a long way in this tournament. Erceg has proven to be a capable captain who is a veteran ready to help her team succeed. She has already scored four goals for New Zealand, and hopes to score some more while also be a solid defender. As for her career highlight, Erceg says,
“I tend not to think of individual memories but rather look at my career as one long journey. Olympic Games and World Cups are extremely special memories. I’ve always wanted to compete in these events since I was a little kid and playing on the world stage for the title of best in the world is relatively significant. (12)”
Erceg is convinced that women’s soccer in New Zealand is currently on the right track and that they really had to fight to get to where they currently are (13). She is confident that the Football Ferns will at some point be mixing it with the biggest and best in the international soccer world. As a hardworking, strong and unselfish leader, we can definitely see Erceg leading her team through a great tournament this summer.
How to cite this page: “New Zealand” Written by Helena Wang (2015), World Cup 2015 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/players-to-watch-at-the-2015-womens-world-cup/new-zealand/ (accessed on (date)).
1. “New Zealand FIFA World Ranking,” FIFA, last modified March 27, 2015, http://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/associations/association=nzl/women/index.html.
2. Jeremey Ruane, “A History Of New Zealand Women’s Soccer,” The Ultimate New Zealand Soccer Website, http://www.ultimatenzsoccer.com/FootballFerns/swanzhistory.htm.
3. “New Zealand women’s national football team,” Wikipedia, last modified 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_women%27s_national_football_team.
4. “2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup,” Wikipedia, last modified 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_FIFA_Women%27s_World_Cup.
5. Tim Grainey, “Women’s World Cup 2015 Preview,” Tribal Football, last modified 2015, http://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/womens-world-cup-2015-preview-4057691#.VUB9HK1Vikr.
6. “New Zealand: Profile,” FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/teams/team=1883725/index.html.
7. Allison McCann, “USA Draws The ‘Group Of Death’ In 2015 Women’s World Cup,” FiveThirtyEight, last modified December 6, 2014, http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/usa-draws-the-group-of-death-in-2015-womens-world-cup/.
8. “Abby Erceg,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abby_Erceg.
9. “Abby Erceg,” New Zealand Football, http://www.nzfootball.co.nz/people/abby-erceg/.
10. “Abby Erceg leads evolving Football Ferns team,” Football HQ, last modified February 7, 2015, http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/football/nz-teams/65905419/abby-erceg-leads-evolving-football-ferns-team.
11. “Erceg: We need to shake habit,” New Zealand Football, last modified March 3, 2015, http://www.nzfootball.co.nz/erceg-we-need-to-shake-habit/.
12. Fred Wookcock, “From teen to a ton for Football Fern Erceg,” Stuff Sport, http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/football/10654537/From-teen-to-a-ton-for-Football-Fern-Erceg.
13. “Erceg: Football Ferns have come a long way.” FIFA. Last modified December 12, 2013. http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/footballdevelopment/women/news/ newsid=2243652/index.html?intcmp=newsreader_news_box_3.
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