NZ Women’s Squad 1998. Part 2.

1998  European/USA Tour.

Squad  Pernille Andersen, Jennifer Carlisle, Maia Jackman, Wendi Henderson, Jill Corner, Nicky Smith, Kelly Jardan, Melissa Wileman, Rachel Howard, Rachel Oliver, Michelle McCahill, Michelle Hodge, Marlies Oostdam, Jane Simpson, Terry McCahill,Sacha Haskell, Amands Crawford, Melissa Ruscoe.

Unfortunately, both our best goalkeepers, Rebecca Rolls and Yvonne Vale   were missing from this tour.  Goalkeeping in NZ Women’s football, at the time, was the weakest position to be able to select from; to lose both Rebecca and Yvonne was certainly a blow.   Rachel Howard and Michelle Hodge were gallant replacements but obviously, as third and fourth choice, they lacked the ability of the two first choice custodians.

The tour started very well in the Netherlands where we disposed of two First Division clubs quite comfortably.   I was criticized quite severely by one of our opponents who considered us far too physical in our approach.  This surprised me as I always encouraged our players to be strong in the tackle and to physically compete for the ball, all within the rules of the game.

The stay in Holland was beneficial as we were hosted at a small town club with tremendous facilities for training.   I was introduced to Bertus Zwerus a top Goalkeeper Coach who later joined us in NZ for the WC Playoffs.  Another local; Jan de Groot, organised our itinerary, both these Dutchmen were to become very good friends of mine in future years.

Zwart Wit 2 v NZ 4.   Velocitas 1 v NZ 7.

After the short stay in Holland we were met by representatives of the German Football Association and we made the long journey by luxury Coach across Holland and Germany to the East German city of Dresden.  As can be expected by the German FA, we were hosted very well, with accommodation and training facilities leaving nothing to be desired.

The first match against Germany was played at Spremberg a provincial town close to Dresden.   After the comparative euphoria of our results in Holland we were quickly brought to earth by the German team who pinned us in our own half for long periods; however, we did manage a compensatory reward when Sacha Haskell headed home from a well worked corner on the near post.  

Sacha Haskell.

Germany 4 v NZ 1. 

The second game was staged in Dresden itself and we knew it would take a massive effort to gain respectability.   As the score indicates we were totally outclassed by the Germans.   Our Goalkeeping problems were to blame for a couple of goals but basically we were outshone all over the pitch.

The German Coach confided later that she thought our players carried too much weight and lacked fitness, compared to her players.   However, I don’t think that she realized that she was comparing her full-time professional players with our ‘part-time’ footballers.   Having said this, it was a great experience for our players to come up against a team and players of such a high standard.   It was an indication of how much work was needed by NZ Women’s football in general to be able to compete at that level, both individually and as a unit.

Germany 8 v NZ 0.     

As we flew across the Atlantic to face USA I contemplated as to why we had agreed to face the highly rated USA, with such little time after facing Germany and no time to train and prepare for the game.   The answer was that we were to be the curtain raiser to the men’s ‘USA v Scotland’ fixture prior to the 1998 World Cup.   Once again this was another case of taking the opportunity for our players to gain valuable experience in front of a large Washington DC crowd.   As we drove to the stadium, among the large crowd building up for the two fixtures, I could sense the nervousness being felt by our less experienced players.   It was explained to them that this is what football at this level is all about, and they could only improve by facing the challenge ‘head on’ and enjoy the experience.    

Despite my words some of our players were clearly affected by the atmosphere.   We were ‘under the cosh’ from the start, with Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers causing us all sorts of problems.   We struggled to get out of our own half and did quite well to keep the result reasonably respectable.

Maia Hamm

USA 5 v NZ 0.

The second game in New York State allowed us a few days to prepare.   In this game things were much more positive and we were coming to terms with our opponents.   We frustrated them by holding possession and mounting some attacks of our own.   However, at 1 – 0 down, bizarrely, the game was called off due to thunder and lightening threatening the proceedings.

Michelle Akers

USA 1 v NZ 0 match abandoned.

Following these fixtures against Germany and USA it was obvious to me that the way forward for NZ women’s football, over the long term, was to have as many players as possible playing full-time professional football.   The German players were playing in professional leagues and the USA players were also ‘full time’ footballers, living together and playing numerous competition and practice games.  One or two of their players had their children living in the training camps with them!  

National Tournament:  Wairapa 1998.

As part of the pre-Oceania Qualifying Tournament buildup the National Team took part in the National Tournament for provincial squads held in Masterton.   This proved to be a worthwhile exercise which gave us match practice against the top provincial teams.

ResultsNZ 4 v Waikato 0.   NZ 5 v Wellington 0.   NZ 5 v Canterbury 0.   NZ 2 v Auckland 0. 

Oceania Qualifying Tournament.  Auckland 1998.

At last the full focal point of three years as National Coach NZ Women had arrived and I could feel confident that things were in place to give us every chance of beating Australia and qualifying.

The players; M. Wileman, M Cox, J Carlisle, R Oliver, N Smith, A Crawford, J Evans, M Ruscoe, W Henderson, M Oostdam, S Puckrin, M Jackman, M Hodge, P Anderson, R Howard, L Jarden, T McCahill (Captain), S Haskell (Vice Captain), J Corner.

I felt that we had cover in most positions and although the Goalkeeping position still worried me Bertus Zwerus was working hard with the three of them and they were responding well to his guidance.

What I was very pleased about was that the NZF Woman’s Committee had agreed to the appointments of my ‘off the field’ staff.   Phil Keiznley a hard working and affable character from Masterton was appointed Manager.  Martin Dowson, a very knowledgeable and talented fitness coach was also appointed.  Bertus Zwerus a Goalkeeper Coach from the Netherlands was added to the squad.  M Van De Elzen as Physio.   This “off the pitch” team gelled together very well helping to create a positive atmosphere.

In the first round we were able to see off our Island opposition comfortably scoring large totals.

NZ 14 v Fiji 0.    NZ 21 v Samoa 0.     

We buried the previous PNG result with not too much difficulty and the final was only ever going to be between us and the Aussies.

NZ 5 v PNG 0.

The Oceania Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament, as expected, was to be decided between New Zealand and Australia and drew a respectable crowd of two thousand spectators to Mt Smart Stadium No 2.

Our build up to the game was dealt a blow when our management was informed of the death of a close relation of one of the players in the starting line-up.   Whether or not to inform the player in these situations is always a dilemma, however, the situation was resolved satisfactorily. 

It’s difficult to asses the effect of this incident but we were two goals down early in the game and didn’t really recover; the Aussies adding a third goal in the second half.  Nicky Smith scored late in the game to give the result respectability.

NZ 1 v Australia 3.

This was to be my final match in charge of the NZ Women’s National Team after a very challenging but enjoyable tenure as National Coach.

I had been given free rein by NZ Women’s Football to select the players and to dictate the policy regarding training and games all within financial restraints.

My thanks go to Jeremy Ruane; Producer of the ‘Ultimate NZ Soccer Website’ and a tremendous supporter and benefactor of Women’s Football in NZ.   Jeremy has supplied me with some details of my time as National Coach which I had long forgotten.