Girls get a look at the big prize

Central Leader - - Sport - By Scott Mor­gan

The women’s un­der-17 foot­ball world cup is in town.

And play­ers from the New Zealand Foot­ball Ferns un­der-17 squad have their eyes on the prize be­fore the tour­na­ment kicks off at North Har­bour Sta­dium and other venues around the coun­try in Oc­to­ber.

Ep­som Girls Gram­mar boarder Han­nah Wall says it was “amaz­ing” the first time she saw the tro­phy, which has been vis­it­ing schools and clubs around New Zealand for the past few weeks.

But she thinks it would be even bet­ter to win the tro­phy at the tour­na­ment.

“It would be good to get New Zealand’s name on it for the first time.”

The team could progress be­yond the group stage, al­though they face tough chal­lenges with Canada, Colom­bia and Mex­ico in their pool.

“I’m con­fi­dent we can get through to the quar­ter-fi­nals,” Han­nah says.

The 17-year-old mid­fielder, who moved up from Welling­ton this year to pre­pare for the world cup, says it is hard be­ing away from her fam­ily for a whole year, but knows it’ll be worth it in the end.

“My whole life is down there, but all the soc­cer girls up here have been re­ally invit­ing.

“And it’ll be so ex­cit­ing to play in front of my friends and fam­ily. A lot of them haven’t seen me play for New Zealand be­fore.”

Three Kings United player An­nalie Longo says string­ing good per­for­mances to­gether is the key to match­ing it with other in­ter­na­tional teams at the tour­na­ment.

“We have patches where we’ll have a re­ally great game and the next game com­pletely fall to bits so find­ing that con­sis­tency is vi­tal.”

And An­nalie will be able to bring her ex­pe­ri­ence from the top level to the team af­ter rep­re­sent­ing the se­nior Foot­ball Ferns side at the world cup in China last year.

Cen­tre-back Yumi Nguyen, who is also from Welling­ton, says the United States will be the team to beat in the tour­na­ment fi­nals.

But if the Ki­wis do come up against them, Yumi says it could bring out the best in the young Foot­ball Ferns.

“Just play­ing and be­ing part of it is great, but I think it could make us play a lot bet­ter.”

Tour­na­ment gen­eral man­ager Nick Jor­dan says prepa­ra­tions for the event are com­ing along well, al­though it is a chal­lenge co­or­di­nat­ing teams from 16 coun­tries.

The tour­na­ment runs from Oc­to­ber 28 un­til Novem­ber 16. For more in­for­ma­tion on tick­ets visit www.nz­soc­cer. com.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Eyes on the prize: Ep­som Girls Gram­mar stu­dents and New Zealand un­der-17 play­ers Yumi Nguyen, An­nalie Longo and Han­nah Wall with the un­der-17 women’s world cup, which they’ll be com­pet­ing for in Oc­to­ber.

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