The Football Ferns are back in Women’s Fifa World Cup action today when they face the Philippines in their second group match. And, as Bonnie Jansen reports, victory could see them safely through to the playoffs.
The Football Ferns could secure a spot in the knockout round of the Fifa Women’s World Cup as early as tonight — other results permitting.
While victory against the Philippines in Wellington alone won’t be enough to advance to the Round of 16, a win and a Norwegian defeat to Switzerland will see the Kiwis safely move on from the group stage — regardless of the result in their final pool match against the Swiss.
Relying on other teams’ results is never a good idea, however, and Jitka Klimkova’s team will be hoping to keep control of their own Cup destiny by winning against both the Philippines and the Swiss.
Here’s how they can do it.
Defend from the front
It’s no secret the Kiwis rely on their backline to survive tough matches — sitting back and waiting for opportunities to strike. The Ferns forwards must look to win the ball high.
On Thursday the frontline showed they’re capable of just that, as did the fullbacks who produced many turnovers on halfway.
The thinking is simple: winning the ball higher up the pitch means they’re closer to the goal and in a better position to score.
Clinical in transition
The Ferns usually look to counter-attack quickly once they have turned over possession. Against the Philippines they should have slightly more time on the ball than they did against Norway.
Switching the opposition and controlling the game will be key. They have to avoid sending it long every time.
Defence wins leagues, but strikers win tournaments. Nowhere is this more true than at the World Cup. Switzerland put two away against the Philippines, and the Football Ferns should be aiming for nothing less.
The Ferns have struggled to find the net in recent times — Hannah Wilkinson’s golden goal against the Scandinavians aside. Even in their opener, the Ferns dominated possession the entire first half but only produced two shots on target the entire game.
These numbers must improve against minnows the Philippines.
Be brave in substitutions
Wilkinson’s second-half screamer was awesome, but her finishing has been poor in the last 12 months and it’s possible that she was close to being replaced if she hadn’t scored when she did.
The Ferns should see the same starting XI line up against the Philippines, but if they haven’t troubled the opposition goalkeeper in the first 45 minutes Klimkova should call in the reinforcements.
She has a number of powerful substitutes who could change the tempo of the game. The players showed courage on the pitch last week. Hopefully, the coach is prepared to do the same on the sidelines.
Bonnie Jansen is a Multimedia Journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective before joining the Te Rito cadetship scheme.