TODAY |

Opinion: Bouncing back from their first loss won't be easy, but there's something special about this Football Ferns side


There’s no time, or appetite, for moping in the Football Ferns camp… just hunger for redemption.

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CJ Bott and Sarah Gregorius say the team knows they can rally from the defeat for their next two games. Source: 1 NEWS

At breakfast this morning you could feel the mood had shifted.  There were tired bodies and captain Ali Riley says she "never sleeps well after a game".

And yes, there's still an air of disappointment after their 1-0 loss against the eighth-ranked Netherlands (where the goal was conceded in the 92nd minute) but not the storm of heartache that surrounded the hotel late last night. 

Phew.

Because the devastation was strewn across their tired bodies yesterday; their shoulders were hunched, there was no eye contact - just sad expressions and a bit of disbelief as they came off the bus after their first Football World Cup game of the 2019 campaign. 

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Sermanni said despite the 1-0 scoreline, there were many positives in the match. Source: 1 NEWS

The team truly believed they were on the cusp of a draw with the current European Champions. What a result that would’ve been, and it was very, very possible until two minutes before the end of the game.

The Football Ferns had put up a heroic defence and had three of the game's best attempts on goal – none went in – Olivia Chance’s ball even hitting the crossbar. But as they say, "it's football" and sometimes things just don’t go your way.

But they showed the world that they deserve a spot at this World Cup – despite some haters this week calling the team "cockroaches" who get a "free pass" into the tournament.  Only conceding a single goal to one of the football giants in stoppage time is definitely a worthy effort and proves the calibre of the team. 

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Tom Sermanni wasn’t buying in to talk of his team getting a free pass to the World Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

One of the British commentators was so impressed with the Kiwi’s on-field efforts that in the 90th minute he was gushing that "New Zealand was about to achieve something very very special" – maybe he jinxed it?

But there's no time for moping - just reflection [or "learnings" as they say in the sports world].

This is the World Cup.  In three days time the team have a game against World No.5 Canada. That means three days to rest, recover, re-watch the game against the Netherlands and for the coach and senior members to re-inspire confidence in the squad. 

This team are professionals – the majority play professionally for clubs all over the world.  No loss is ever wanted, but it’s not like they’ve never experienced them before and striker Sarah Gregorius assures me, because of that emotional experience, it won’t be hard to bounce back.

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Chris Chang, Kate King and Victor Waters on New Zealand’s heartbreak in their first game, plus they look at some of the more interesting haircuts in World Cup history. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand’s Football Ferns firmly believe this is "their year".  They’re here to win games – yes win! [The NZ senior women’s team has never won a game at a World Cup].  They truly believe it’s possible this year.

For five of this squad, Ali Riley, Abby Erceg, Ria Percival, Annalie Longo and Katie Duncan – this is their fourth World Cup and many in that group believe it may be their last.  They’re hungry to settle unfinished business and make this one count.

Being around the camp, you sense that hunger, but also a unique unity. The giggles [especially in the days leading up to game day] echoed throughout Le Havre - Coach Tom Sermanni joked that the build-up had been very noisy with lots of talking.

The atmosphere is unique too.

Their new coach is very open and calm, even inviting 1 NEWS into two mealtimes [highly unusual] and displaying a genuine affection for the team. 

The team's comradery will be crucial in the next 72 hours.  It’s not easy to just "bounce" back after deep devastation – but you can sense they’re onto it.

The team’s Instagram account now features the team photo with the statement "Never. Give. Up."  and another saying "Onto the next one".

That seems to be the feeling around camp.

World class defender, the unflappable Abby Erceg says now "that we’re battle hardened – I’m set for more. Bring on the next game already I’m ready for redemption".

And in the words of Rosie White, "Canada, let’s go – we are hungrier than ever".

Strong fighting talk, promising another nail-biting match.