New Zealand Women’s U-17 coach Gareth Turnbull is looking forward to seeing how good his side is on the world stage and he will get the opportunity next month.
Turnbull, who is in Jordan for the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup draw where New Zealand drew the hosts Jordan, Mexico and Spain, named his squad today for a tour of China where New Zealand will play international friendlies against China, Canada and defending FIFA U-17 World Cup Champions Japan. The China tour will be completed from July 9 – 19 in WeiFang in the Shan Dong Province.
Turnbull, who led the New Zealand side to victory in the 2016 OFC U17 Women's Championship in Rarotonga, without conceding a goal by the end of the tournament, said the matches will be great preparation for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in September.
“We don’t know how good we are compared to the rest of the world at this age,” he said. “We are trying to produce future Football Ferns so opportunities like these to test ourselves against the world’s best are invaluable.”
Turnbull has named 18 girls for this tour – including debutants Grace Jale (Eastern Suburbs) and Lily Bray (Coastal Spirit) – with 21 to be announced for the World Cup in Jordan.
“This squad is a super talented group of girls,” he said. “The majority of them went away with us to the Cook Islands in January and we wanted to build on that experience and test ourselves against some world-class opposition. We are looking forward to that opportunity.”
Jale, who was unavailable for the U-17 qualifiers because she was with the Football Ferns in the Olympic qualifiers in Papua New Guinea, comes in to the U-17 selection for the first time, while Bray missed selection for the qualifiers but has gone away and worked on some of the things the coaching staff asked of her.
“The last three times we have seen her in our environment she has excelled. She deserves her selection,” said Turnbull.
Only one of Turnbull’s wider squad of 32 players was unavailable for selection, with Maggie Jenkins in the NZ Secondary Schools squad travelling to Australia with the tour dates overlapping.
Michaela Foster (Claudelands Rovers), who will captain the side, believed the tour to China will be an amazing experience for the whole squad.
“As a team it will allow us to go up against teams such as China, Japan and Canada and we will be able to see where we are at as a team,” she said.
“We will see how well we have been preparing for Jordan so far and what we need to do next so that we can really compete at the World Cup and perform our best. As an individual, I am really excited about this amazing opportunity and being able to represent New Zealand and compete against countries that we may come up against in Jordan.”
The China tour is preparation for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and will be played under conditions designed to replicate the pool play section of a World Cup (three games in eight days).
“The OFC qualifiers were a great experience for us to go away and see what international football is like and what being on tour is like,” said Turnbull. “But the reality is we weren’t really tested. We set ourselves some high standards which we were pleased about, but these games will be at another level.”
Players selected for the China tour are:
Anna Leat - GK (East Coast Bays), Nadia Olla - GK (Norwest), Michaela Foster (C)(Claudelands Rovers), Ally Toailoa (Papatoetoe AFC), Amber Phillips (Palmerston North Marist), Rebecca Lake (Coastal Spirit), Claudia Bunge (Glenfield Rovers), Francesca Grange (Wellington United), Alosi Bloomfield (Three Kings), Nicole Mettam (Eastern Suburbs), Lily Bray (Coastal Spirit), Grace Jale (Eastern Suburbs), Malia Steinmetz (Forrest Hill Milford), Gabrielle Jillings (Surrey United, Vancouver) Jacqueline Hand (Eastern Suburbs), Emma Main (Upper Hutt), Samantha Tawharu (Forrest Hill Milford), Hannah Blake (Three Kings)
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