16 Jun 2019

Football Ferns face must win at World Cup after loss to Canada

10:04 am on 16 June 2019

The New Zealand women's football team must win their final group game to progress at the World Cup in France after falling to their second straight defeat, a 2-0 loss to Canada.

Football Ferns defender Abby Erceg.

Football Ferns defender Abby Erceg. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Canada have now qualified for the knockout stage, while the Football Ferns must beat Cameroon in their last group game on Friday morning to have any hope of progressing.

The Football Ferns were defeated 1-nil by the Netherlands in their opening game.

Earlier this morning the Dutch qualified for the round of 16 with a 3-1 win over Cameroon.

The North Americans dominated all of the telling statistics and earned the win their showing deserved with second-half strikes to Jessie Fleming and Nichelle Prince.

The Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni was honest in his post-match assessment but is not giving up hope of making it out of pool play.

"We were just outplayed by a better team on the night," he said.

"We never really got into any kind of rhythm tonight and didn't get into any situations where we seemed to win things to get momentum. We'll go back to what we talked about at the start, which is that we've got three games and we now have to try to win the next one. Hopefully, that might be enough to get to the Round of 16."

Sermanni opted for the same starting line-up that did so well against the Netherlands, with Olivia Chance and Betsy Hassett swapping flanks in the only positional switch, but was soon forced into a change as Annalie Longo replaced the injured CJ Bott early on.

But, unlike against the European champions, New Zealand could not manage to create any meaningful goal-scoring opportunities and rarely posed an attacking threat to Canada.

The Ferns again proved hard to break down though, Erin Nayler producing one of the saves of the tournament while Abby Erceg and Rebekah Stott once more proved New Zealand's best performers in front of her.

That meant Canada struggled to turn their dominance into goals and it was scoreless at the break. But New Zealand's stubborn resistance was finally broken early in the second half when Fleming tucked home a cut-back from Prince to plant one foot in the knockout stages for her team.

While producing little going forward, the Ferns continued to frustrate Canada and were kept in the game by Nayler with just under 20 minutes to go, the France-based goalkeeper flinging herself to her left to somehow palm away a Prince header.

That gave Sermanni's side a lifeline heading into the closing stages but Canada finally made sure of the points when Christine Sinclair headed against the post and Prince was on hand to prod in the rebound.

"They were the better team and credit to them because we weren't good enough today," admitted skipper Ali Riley.

"If we had put in an equal or better performance as we did against the Netherlands then it would be a different story but we didn't do that today. We worked hard and there's no taking away from that but they were the better team and deserved the win. We knew it could come down to this last game and now it is," she added.

"The positive is that I don't think we'll play like this two games in a row - we always learn a lot from our mistakes and our lesser performances. We're going to have to give everything we have against Cameroon because we have to get that win to have any chance of going through."