Soccer: Duo have score to settle in Japan

By Terry Maddaford

Young Football Ferns Rosie White and Bridgette Armstrong have more reason than most to want to win through to the quarter-finals of Fifa's U-20 Women's World Cup in Japan.

The pair, playing their third such tournament, were members of the New Zealand team who had one foot in the door to the quarter-finals four years ago in Chile only to be cruelly denied when hotly favoured England snatched an equaliser in the fifth minute of five minutes of stoppage time for a dramatic 1-1 draw which ended the dream of being the first New Zealand women's age group team to progress.

The Ferns are in a similar, but slightly better, position heading into tomorrow night's final group match against Mexico.

A win and a draw - against Switzerland and Japan - leave the Aaron McFarland-coached team needing just a point in Kobe to reach the last eight.

The reasonably comfortable 2-1 opening-round win over Switzerland and a titanic effort in holding the third-ranked hosts 2-2 have left the Young Ferns on the cusp of a best result for women's soccer in this country.

In taking a solid 2-0 lead over Japan and then holding on against the odds to claim an invaluable point, New Zealand have their destiny in their own hands.

McFarland is playing it cool in building up for tomorrow's defining game.

He is aware Mexico have to chase the game and the win, but he still wants his players to go into the match in a winning frame of mind.

Given that most of the Mexican players are based in the US and play a direct brand of football, he needs his players to be ever-alert and ready to counterattack when the opportunity arises.

"We have to have an attacking mindset," said McFarland.

"But at the same time we need to ensure the balance is right."

Two years ago in Germany, where White, Armstrong, heroic goalkeeper Erin Naylor, Nadia Pearl and Hannah Wilkinson of the current team played, New Zealand failed to pick up a point, going down 2-1 to Sweden and North Korea and 4-1 to Brazil.

But this team has taken a huge step up and is well-equipped for that major breakthrough.

Fifa U20 Women's World Cup

Tomorrow

New Zealand v Mexico, Kobe, 10.05pm (live SS1)

Japan v Switzerland, Tokyo

- NZ Herald

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