4 Dec 2018

Bronze medal winning women's football team arrive home

8:12 am on 4 December 2018

The bronze medal-winning U-17 New Zealand women's football team have arrived home in New Zealand to a reception from family, friends and wellwishers at Auckland Airport.

New Zealand under-17 womens football team for 2018 World Cup.

New Zealand under-17 womens football team for 2018 World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The team which has gone further than any other New Zealand football team was cheered as they emerged into the arrivals hall.

The team became officially the third-best in the world in their grade after beating Canada 2-1 in the third place playoff at the under-17 World Cup in Uruguay.

It's the first time a New Zealand side has ever had a podium finish at a FIFA tournament.

They also caught the eye of football fans in New Zealand and around the world with their wholehearted endeavour, as well as becoming one of the teams of the tournament.

Some 40 family and friends waved placards and cheered as the team emerged into the arrivals hall just after 7am. The team huddled together one last time and then broke up to hug family and talk to reporters.

Player Maggie Jenkins told RNZ that the success was built on a strong team culture.

She said the team had bonded together and the coaches had worked hard to ensure the team was cohesive, organising get-togethers, quizzes and competitions. That bonding had then stood the team well on the field under pressure.

"We had set goals to win a game and to get out of the pool stage but once that happened we tried to approach every game as it came. But it really was insane to make it through to the semi-finals to play Spain. Then we finished strongly with the win against Canada in the play-offs.

"We all had a belief we could do it. The team culture was strong and focused, we were a tight team."

She said that their results had yet to sink in fully.

"It was crazy to come into the airport this morning and see all these people. It is such an amazing feeling to see that we had such amazing support at home."

Jenkins said that the medal was a memory that the players would have forever.

"We are treasuring this moment so much. Can't wait to hang it on the wall!"

Coach Leon Birnie, a constantly cheerful and optimistic presence at the Cup, said: "Who would have thought, we came over here, we had a dream we got out of the group, created history for the first time ... then got into the semi-finals, created more history and now we've just got a bronze medal at a World Cup, like how good are these players."


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