Ferns wilt amidst Portuguese pressure

New Zealand 0-5 Portugal

by Denise Duffy at Waikato Stadium (17/2/23)

Above: The Football Ferns’ Gabi Rennie (black shirt) eyes the ball today against Portugal. Photo: NZ Football

Waikato Stadium in Kirikiriroa – Hamilton was in fantastic condition for the kickoff between the Football Ferns and Portugal.

Billed as a friendly match submerged in the more important Fifa Play-Off Tournament. Portugal, the lone UEFA team, has come to New Zealand with much on the line, a spot in the World Cup itself. It received a first-round bye in the tournament and will face the winners of Cameroon versus Thailand next week.

Portugal played with purpose and ability. In contrast, this selection of the Football Ferns squad has not played together in a while, and it showed. Their rapid attacking style was something they could not execute well, with 370 passes attempted and only 80 completed, this led to a pass completion rate of only 22%. The match came across as a frantic display of a team that needs to better understand itself.

Above: CJ Bott drives away with the ball for New Zealand. Photo: NZ Football.

The Ferns lacked organization in the box, usually a strong point of theirs. The 3-5-2 game plan left them exposed, with less experienced center backs to defend larger areas. A more hungry Portugal squad pounced in that wide space and executed passes into the front of goal. Nayler was left exposed time and time again and could not come up with reflex saves.

Jéssica Silva scored on a glancing header in the 17th minute. After a Kate Taylor take down,  Captain Dolores Silva scored off a penalty kick in the 42nd minute, Naylor had guessed the right direction, but not the correct quadrant, and the ball went above her reach.

A usually nimble Katie Bowen got run around by Diana Silva and fed Ana Capeta in the 63rd minute. Portugal added another goal in the 69th and one by Tatiana Pinto 79th. The crowd remained surprisingly active as the minutes dwindled down, looking for something to cheer about.   

Above: The New Zealand team that took on Portugal today. Photo: NZ Football.

Teams: NEW ZEALAND (3-5-2): Nayler, Bowen, Bunge, Taylor, Bott, Chance, Hassett, Riley, Steinmetz, Rennie, Wilkinson. Substitutes used: Moore, Satchell, Jale, Anton, Cleverly.

PORTUGAL (4-3-3): Morais, Alves, Rebelo, Capeta, Jéssica Silva, Seiça, Norton, Dolores Silva, Marques, Borges, Encarnação. Substitutes used: Amado, Fátima Pinto, Tatiana Pinto, Diana Silva, Gomes.

Scorers: Jéssica Silva 17′, Dolores Silva (pen) 42′, Capeta 63′, 69′. Tatiana Pinto 79′.

Referee: Emikar Calderas (VEN).

Attendance: 3,788.

Above: Football Ferns fans in Hamilton – Kirikiriroa – urge Olivia Chance to shoot! Photo: Denise Duffy.

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