Football Ferns staff aren’t panicked by the team’s lack of goals and are pleading for patience in their desire to become a more potent attacking force.
Coach Jitka Klimková is in no rush to fix the lack of goals, saying the team always want to win games, however, the main focus is to “start building” from their World Cup performance – and with that, scoring and winning is a “long-term goal”.
Despite New Zealand coming off the back of their best-ever Fifa Women’s World Cup performance – as they clinched their first win – being clinical in front of the net is still an issue.
The Ferns, ranked 26th, scored once in three World Cup games, went 10 games winless before July, scored four times in their 12 fixtures since Christmas and netted 10 times across 24 matches since the beginning of 2022.
Thankfully for Klimková, she has time on her side – the coach has been contracted for an unprecedented seven years in the role. This month she heads into her third year with the team.
“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Klimková told the Herald.
“We will always play to win,” she said. “That’s always the first mindset that we step on the field.”
But her long-term plan includes growing as a team, being more efficient in the final third and creating more chances to score more goals.
It comes after the 49-year-old announced her squad for the two September friendlies against Chile. “This is huge for us that we are actually together so quickly after the World Cup,” she said.
Klimková picked a nearly full-strength 24-player squad to take on the 41-ranked Chileans.
There are five fresh faces added to the camp from the World Cup on home soil, where four were omitted from that group.
After missing most of last season due to a knee injury, the Ferns’ co-captain Ria Percival has decided to stay at her English Women’s Super League Club, Tottenham Hotspur. Similarly, midfielder Daisy Cleverley will stay put at her club HB Køge in Denmark as she manages a knee niggle.
Despite recently signing for one of the world’s biggest football clubs, Bayern Munich, third-choice goalkeeper, Erin Nayler was left off the list as she was unattached to a club at the time of selection.
Perth Glory’s versatile defender, Liz Anton, is the last and only player who missed out from July’s team.
Three Wellington Phoenix players have been called up in replacement: Defender Kate Taylor, midfielder Grace Wisnewski and goalkeeper Brianna Edwards. Grace Neville and Ally Green, who play in England and Denmark, come in as full-back reinforcements.
“I always am excited about this squad that is coming because we know those players are in their best shape and in the best form who are performing regularly either with their clubs or who had really solid World Cup.”
Klimková also answered the questions surrounding the extensive group of veterans and whether they would stick around for next year’s Olympic Games or they’ll start focusing on the new, younger wave of talent.
To which Klimková said: “All those veterans I have to say really had solid women’s old club and played very good football – so that’s always good for this team.”
The likes of 24-year-old Jacqui Hand and Malia Steinmetz were examples at the World Cup, that when opportunities are given, they will shine. The former Mount Albert Grammar pair were two of the strongest players of the tournament for New Zealand.
However, Klimková confirmed that the group of veterans won’t be hanging up the boots any time soon, and the staff and players themselves both see them involved in Paris next July.
“I always believed that the balance of experience and young talent is important – we need to have both.”
Football Ferns: September squad
Goalkeepers: Brianna Edwards, Victoria Esson, Anna Leat
Defenders: CJ Bott, Katie Bowen, Claudia Bunge, Michaela Foster, Ally Green, Grace Neville, Ali Riley, Rebekah Stott, Kate Taylor
Midfielders: Olivia Chance, Betsy Hassett, Annalie Longo, Malia Steinmetz, Grace Wisnewski
Forwards: Milly Clegg, Jacqui Hand, Grace Jale, Gabi Rennie, Indiah-Paige Riley, Paige Satchell, Hannah Wilkinson
New Zealand v Chile: Sunday, September 24, 11am (NZT), Estadio Bicentenario de La Florida, Santiago, Chile
New Zealand v Chile: Wednesday, September 27, 3am (NZT), Quilín Complex, Santiago, Chile (behind closed doors)
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.