Kiwi team makes his­tory

Napier Courier - - News -

Hawke’s Bay coach Leon Birnie and his girls have added an­other fairy tale chap­ter to New Zealand foot­ball his­tory af­ter book­ing a place in the semi­fi­nal of the Fifa Un­der-17 World Cup in Uruguay last week­end.

“All along we have said to the play­ers ‘Dare to dream’ and we con­tinue to do just that,” Leon says from Mon­te­v­ideo af­ter the Kiwi teenagers up­set favourites and for­mer age-group cham­pi­ons Ja­pan 4-3 in a penalty shootout af­ter the sides were locked 1-all in reg­u­la­tion time of their quar­ter-fi­nal match.

The 36-year-old Cen­tral Foot­ball ad­min­is­tra­tor from Napier went to bed well af­ter mid­night af­ter re­ceiv­ing a flood of con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sages from fans through­out New Zealand and abroad fol­low­ing their mem­o­rable achieve­ments at the Es­ta­dio Al­berto Sup­pici.

The favourites had failed to break down the res­o­lute de­fence of the un­der­dogs de­spite an own goal from Hannah Mack­ayWright. But all was for­got­ten as the Kiwi teenagers, af­ter Amelia Ab­bott opened their ac­count in the 17th minute, showed com­po­sure and a clin­i­cal edge in the penalty shootout with only Jayda Ste­wart get­ting un­der a pitch-wedge shot that curled well over the cross­bar.

“This is a spe­cial mo­ment and one that we will trea­sure for the rest of our lives in be­com­ing the first New Zealand team to reach a World Cup semi­fi­nal. It is an amaz­ing mo­ment,” Leon says.

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