The high-flying Football Ferns are off to the capital — and have their sights set on going two-from-two in the Fifa Women’s World Cup when they take on the Philippines on Tuesday.
The Kiwis started the tournament in sensational fashion, stunning the heavily favoured Norway in their opening match at Eden Park on Thursday night to set themselves up well for a place in the next round.
The opportunity to play in front of a sold-out Wellington crowd doesn’t mean more to anyone than it does to New Zealand defender CJ Bott — the only Wellingtonian in the Ferns Cup squad.
The Tawa local described it as “a dream come true” to play such a high-stakes match in front of her friends and family.
“I think anyone is lucky to play in front of a home crowd, and especially for a World Cup, and also coming off the back of a great victory for us,” Bott said.
“It’ll be another emotional one for me.”
The 28-year-old is arguably the most vital Ferns player and was key in the Ferns’ 1-0 victory over Norway.
The Leicester City defender set the pace from the beginning, put in game-changing tackles and was clinical and composed on the ball.
The right fullback was also involved in the goal’s build-up — she brought down Katie Bowen’s free kick from the goal box, before finding Indiah-Paige Riley, who threaded the ball to Jacqui Hand.
Hand’s inch-perfect cross found Hannah Wilkinson in the box, with the powerful striker doing the rest.
Bott says she’s watched the goal “over 100 times” and “gets goosebumps every time”.
“I think as footballers, as any athletes, you train for those moments, and for it to kind of come to fruition ... is just such an awesome moment.
“You give yourself a big pat on the back and a big sigh, like, ‘We did it’.”
Bott was “freaking stoked” about the Ferns’ upset victory against the Scandinavians, and while it meant more eyes on the team than there have ever been before, she doesn’t feel any added pressure.
“I think we still, in a sense, have the weight of the country on our shoulders as we did from the first game, but at the same time, experiencing Eden Park the other day and seeing how the crowd really got behind us and jollied us along in the lulls and the great moments ... we know we can do it,” Bott said.
“There’s always a certain amount of pressure, but I think if anything, it’s given us the boost we need, and I think we’ve taken a lot of confidence from that performance.”
Bott and her teammates have noticed the increased attention and positive media headlines, but she insists nothing has changed to their approach.
“We take confidence from that performance. It’s a job well done - it’s a ticked box, and we move forward to the Philippines.
“We’ve still got our work-ons and we’ve still got our things to focus on.”
The Ferns kick off against the Philippines at 5.30pm on Tuesday.