The Football Ferns have made New Zealand soccer history. By beating Cameroon 3-1 at Coventry this morning, they have become the first New Zealand soccer team, male or female to qualify for the knockout phase at a major tournament; Stuff reports:
After a day they will never forget, the Football Ferns are talking themselves up ahead of their Olympic women's football quarterfinal against the United States on Friday.The Ferns snuck in the backdoor of qualifying this morning when another result went their way and they swept past Cameroon 3-1 in Coventry.The Ferns learned 15 minutes before kick-off that a win would be enough to get them through as a ''lucky loser'' and it added some interest to what would otherwise been a meaningless match.When North Korea lost 1-0 to the United States, the Ferns only needed a win to advance as one of the two best third-placed teams.They did that and now as lowest qualifier, they are pitted against top qualifier United States at St James' Park in Newcastle on Friday (Saturday NZ time)."We feel we fully deserved this over the course of the three games," Ferns coach Tony Readings said after earlier 1-0 losses to Great Britain and Brazil."Whilst we lost the first two games, those narrow losses have proved vital."Readings said it "nerve wracking" before kick-off waiting to learn if the United States would beat North Korea and keep their Olympic dream alive."I was refreshing my phone every minute," he said."I think North Korea had a chance at the end of the game and it went over the bar."We let them (the team) know on the pitch during the warm-up because we were watching it on the screen."
The Football Ferns certainly turned it on this morning, and were rewarded with a date with the United States, favourites for the gold medal. It may prove to be a bridge too far, but we can still remember the day that the All Whites played a significant part in eliminating world champions Italy from the 2010 FIFA World Cup.