Olympics: Last-gasp goal sinks Football Ferns

By Michael Brown

There's a familiar tale in New Zealand football. It's the one about a plucky team who battle hard and often threaten to upstage their more fancied opponents only to suffer heartbreak near the end.

It happened to the New Zealand women's side this morning (NZT) in their second match at the Olympics when they held Brazil, the world's fifth-ranked side, for 86 minutes before conceding a dreadful goal that not only cost them a point but also potentially a place in the quarter-finals.

A point would have been invaluable ahead of their final group match against Cameroon, especially after they went down 1-0 to Great Britain in their opening match. They are expected to beat the African side and four points would probably have been enough to see them progress to the quarter-finals.

Three points, assuming they actually beat Cameroon, might not. The two best third-placed sides in the 12-team competition advance.

"It's going to be a challenge to pick the players up for the next game but we'll hope that results go our way today and we live to fight another day,'' coach Tony Readings said.

"Bring on Cameroon and we'll look for three points in that match.''

A goalkeeping error proved costly for the men's side in their 1-0 defeat to Belarus on Friday morning (NZT) and it was the same for the women in Cardiff today.

Jenny Bindon came to punch a free-kick but missed the ball, which landed at the feet of Cristiane. The striker calmly lobbed the ball into the back of the net, beating the efforts of a desperate Abby Erceg to keep it out.

Her teammates had done well to keep Brazil quiet until that point. The Football Ferns might not have created much _ they had only one shot on goal and five shots in total _ but Brazil didn't trouble New Zealand overly, either, and were reduced largely to strikes from outside the area.

Fullbacks Ali Riley and Ria Percival also nullified the influence of five-time world Player of the Year Marta.

"We're really happy with how the girls executed the plan and that's part of the disappointment,'' Readings said. "You have a gameplan, you execute it and it works but you still don't get the result you need so it's very difficult for us.''

"It feels pretty similar to the last game really. It was a game, probably even more so than the last, that we've devastated not to take something out of.

"Brazil didn't really threaten us too much in the match. We defended brilliantly, we attacked well at times and definitely deserved at least a point from that match so to come away with nothing we like we've been robbed.''

The Football Ferns, who were beaten 1-0 in their opening match by Great Britain, take on Cameroon in Coventry on Wednesday morning (NZT).

The men's side play their second match against Egypt at Manchester United's Old Trafford tomorrow morning (NZT).

New Zealand 0 Brazil 1 (Cristiane 86). HT: 0-0.

- NZ Herald

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