New Zealand Women’s U-20 coach Leon Birnie is looking forward to seeing how good his team is when they take on the USA U-19 side in the first of two friendlies at QBE Stadium in Albany today.
Birnie said the touring American team, who came from behind to defeat a New Zealand A side 2-1 on Tuesday afternoon, will be the perfect benchmark for his team as they prepare for the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea in November.
“These games will give us real clarity of what we need to work on and what we are doing really well,” said Birnie. “We have four months post this to go away and work on our learnings ahead of the World Cup.”
The head coach said it is always good to get a good result but they have long term goals and a bigger picture in mind. The main focus for the NZ-U20s is to deliver a good performance and develop their style and model of play.
Birnie watched the game on Tuesday, which included many regular Football Ferns, and was impressed by the skill and the structure of his opposition.
“They are going to test us in a way that we haven’t really been tested in this campaign,” he said. “A lot of our players haven’t had any international fixtures since the last World Cup and that is why we worked so hard behind the scenes to arrange this fixture. There is no better nation to test yourself in women’s football than the US. History shows that they have had consistent success at all levels in recent years and the performance they put on against New Zealand A on Tuesday was excellent and we expected that.”
Birnie said he was fortunate to work alongside USA Development Coach Jitka Klimkova in the NZ U-17s when she was working here in New Zealand and regarded her as “a great coach”.
“We knew she would have her team well-structured and that is what they showed. We are really looking forward to these fixtures.”
Meanwhile, Klimkova is hoping her team can continue their momentum from their performance on Tuesday where forward Marissa Everett scored two quick-fire goals to seal the win.
“We need to keep going,” she said. “We can take a lot of positives from the win [over New Zealand A]. It is always important the first game in a tour and we started well and we want to finish even stronger.”
New Zealand U-20 v USA U-19
2pm QBE Stadium, Albany
New Zealand U-20’s: 1. Tessa Nicol, 2. Sarah Morton, 3. Elizabeth Anton, 4. Meikayla Moore © 5. Jade Parris, 8. Jasmine Pereira, 9. Martine Puketapu, 10. Daisy Cleverley, 13. Paige Satchell, 15. Sophie Stewart Hobbs, 16. Mikayla Wieblitz
Subs: 6. Tayla Christensen, 7. Isabella Coombes, 11. Emma Rolston, 14. Rebecca Lake, 17. Samantha Murrell, 19. Hannah Blake, 20. Grace Jale, 21. Emily Couchman