World Cup warm-up win has Birnie’s girls up­beat

Hawke's Bay Today - - Sport - Foot­ball

The New Zealan­ders are in a con­fi­dent mood as they com­plete their prepa­ra­tion for their open­ing game of the Fifa Un­der17 Women’s World Cup next week in Uruguay.

The team, coached by Hawke’s Bay’s Leon Birnie, were im­pres­sive on Thurs­day as they de­feated Canada 2-1 in their fi­nal friendly be­fore the tour­na­ment.

De­fender Kelli Brown opened the scor­ing for New Zea­land in the sec­ond minute be­fore Canada’s Jor­dyn Huitema lev­elled the scores in the 24th minute.

New Zea­land mid­fielder Jayda Stew­art com­pleted the win when she found the back of the net in the fi­nal 15 min­utes.

Birnie, who said it took a cou­ple of days for his team to ac­cli­ma­tise to the con­di­tions in Uruguay, was pleased with the team’s first hit-out of the tour.

“There are a lot of pos­i­tives to take away from that game,” said Birnie.

“We were able to get 19 play­ers on the field and ex­pose them to the de­mands of in­ter­na­tional foot­ball.

“For 15 of those play­ers, it was their first ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing an in­ter­na­tional out­side of the OFC Qual­i­fiers.

“It was good for them to get their nerves out of the sys­tem and see what it is all about.”

Birnie said Brown’s goal set the mood for the game. It was im­por­tant to not only put in a good per­for­mance, but also get a re­sult.

“It was good to score but to com­pete with a team like Canada and ex­e­cute some of the things we have been ask­ing of the girls against an in­ter­na­tional team of that qual­ity was the big learn­ing from that game,” he said.

“That is great for our con­fi­dence. It con­firms what we have been talk­ing about with the squad that we are not here just to com­pete.

“We want to get out of our group and cre­ate a bit of his­tory. It is go­ing to be chal­leng­ing, but we are up for that chal­lenge.”

New Zea­land open their cam­paign against Fin­land on Wed­nes­day morn­ing (NZT), then play the hosts Uruguay and fin­ish their pool games against Ghana.

Their fo­cus is on Fin­land as they look to get off to a win­ning start in Mon­te­v­ideo.

“We have a lot of work to do over the next five days to be ready for Fin­land.

“We know Fin­land are a very good side, we know what they are ca­pa­ble of and we will need to be at our best,” Birnie added.

PHOTO / FILE

Hawke’s Bay’s Leon Birnie coaches the New Zea­land un­der-17 women’s foot­ball team.

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