The Football Ferns claimed a memorable 1-0 victory over Brazil in the Valais Cup at Chatel-St-Denis early this morning to reach the final to be held on Thursday (NZT).
Amber Hearns' header in the 66th minute was enough to defeat the team ranked fourth in the FIFA Women's World rankings, but it could have been more. Hearns missed a penalty in the first half and a number of chances were missed by the Ferns but they deserved their victory and their place in the record books as the first New Zealand team to beat Brazil at any level. It was also their first victory against a team in the top ten of the FIFA Women's rankings since they began.
The victory was well deserved from the start with New Zealand dominating play and creating several chances. Betsy Hassett was involved in everything, developing play at the back and bursting forward when opportunity arose. It was Hassett that had the best chance of the opening exchanges, having been played through on the left her shot was well saved by Thais Picarte in the Brazilian goal.
Their dominance and pressure was rewarded with a penalty in the 21st minute. Helen Collins pressured the Brazilian defence forcing the penalty decision and Hearns confidently stepped up to take. The forward struck the ball well to Picarte's right but the keeper did well to save. The miss didn't knock the Ferns confidence though as they continued to pass the ball well and remained relaxed in possession.
The goal their play had deserved finally came in the second half after concerted pressure on the Brazilian goal. Katie Hoyle had already had a snapshot well saved by Picarte before Hearn had an opportunity deflected just wide of the post, and Ria Percival forced a corner from an effort just outside the box. From the resulting corner Hearns powered a header into the net after a mistake from the previously unflappable Picante.
Brazil never looked likely to force an equaliser and New Zealand were in comfortable control for the remaining twenty minutes to see out the game and earn a victory that will go down in the history books of New Zealand Football.
The Football Ferns will play China in the final of the Valais Cup 2013 on Thursday 3.30am (NZT).