Football Ferns pull off surprise draw with Brazil

The Football Ferns have pulled off a spectacular 1-1 draw with Brazil through a late Rosie White equaliser at Mt Smart Stadium tonight.

The 21-year-old replacement showed pinpoint accuracy with a diving header after latching onto a brilliant cross delivered by Hannah Wilkinson in the 85th minute

Almost 2000 supporters turned out on a miserable Auckland evening to watch the Ferns take on the sixth-ranked Brazilians, who only arrived in the country on Saturday after drawing 0-0 with France three days prior.

New Zealand played defensively and controlled much of the possession in the opening 20 minutes.

Wilkinson was instrumental on attack and proved a menace down the right flank early with Betsy Hassett also strong in centre field - the Manchester City midfielder snuffed out a number of attacks and directed well.

But Brazil soon found their rhythm.

Cristiane Rozeira S. Silva struck a shot low and hard outside of the box, forcing keeper Erin Nayler to dive to her right for a magnificent save.

In reply the Ferns were inches away from grabbing the lead after a cross from defender Ria Percival was headed by Wilkinson to just scrape over the cross bar in the 37th minute.

But after sustained pressure Brazil grabbed the opening goal in the 42nd minute after a corner kick from Miraildes Maciel Mota was deflected off the corner post with striker Cristiane duly delivering.

Wilkinson almost struck back immediately but her shot on goal was deflected.

The second half proved a lot more physical with yellow cards handed out to both Katie Hoyle and Brazil's Miraildes for dangerous tackles.

The Brazilian defence held well despite waves of New Zealand attack, including yet another Wilkinson shot hitting the crossbar.

White had replaced Sarah Gregorius in the 67th minute and the UCLA forward didn't disappoint, her goal ending a personal nine-month scoring drought.


The Football Ferns produced one of their most pleasing performances in a rare outing on home turf at Mt. Smart Stadium on June 16, as they drew 1-1 with Brazil on a night better suited to water polo than football. 1,957 hardy souls braved the elements to see the world's 23rd-ranked women's football playing nation take on a team boasting, in Cristiane, a two-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year finalist. She didn't disappoint, but nor did her opponents, who started brightly and went close to opening the scoring in the third minute of play. Rebekah Stott played the ball forward to the industrious Betsy Hassett, whose through ball released Hannah Wilkinson down the right. She was a menace to Brazil throughout the entire contest, and left-back Rilany had the devil's own job trying to cope with Wilkinson's powerful thrusts throughout proceedings. The fullback didn't have a prayer on this first occasion, as the game's star turn surged to the by-line before firing in a cross. Tayla headed it clear, but only as far as Amber Hearn, whose well-struck shot deflected narrowly past Thais' right-hand post.
New Zealand's most prolific markswoman was the target of some early physicality from her Brazilian markers, but Hearn has never been a shrinking violet in this regard, and replied both in kind and via her undoubted talent, which saw her jink through a couple of challenges in the sixth minute before laying the ball off to Hassett. Her fine through ball invited Wilkinson to terrorise Rilany once more, and once more the striker got the better of her opponent, only to undo all her good work by taking too many touches, instead of letting fly. Tayla and Bruna, Brazil's captain, combined to thwart Wilkinson's progress on this occasion.
You had to have some sympathy for Rilany. Not only did she have Wilkinson to cope with, but every so often flying fullback Ria Percival would rampage down the right to good effect, such as in the seventh minute. On this occasion, she got in behind the fullback and fired over a cross which was destined for the head of the flying figure of Sarah Gregorius, until Thais tipped the ball to safety.
Brazil hadn't been sighted as an attacking force in the early stages of the match, but in the fifteenth minute, Cristiane made her presence known with a pass which invited Rosana to race past three opponents into the penalty area, where the combined efforts of Stott and Abby Erceg curtailed her progress in double-quick time.
After a cleared Percival corner had allowed Hassett to unleash a twenty-yarder which Thais was right behind, the midfielder directed another shot at the goalkeeper in the 24th minute, but only after Katie Hoyle had released the under-utilised Ali Riley down the left. Through no fault of her own, the fullback had an unusually quiet game, due to most of the Football Ferns' attacks taking place down the opposite flank. But this one saw Riley deliver a pinpoint first-time cross for Wilkinson to head goalwards, only for Tayla's timely headed clearance to deny the striker the goal her performance merited.
The lack of service being afforded Cristiane was testament to the terrific work which Hearn, Hoyle, Hassett and Annalie Longo were doing in midfield. It prompted the striker to drop deep in search of the ball, and when she received it inside her own half in the 25th minute, there appeared to be no threat to the Football Ferns' goal. Cue some individual brilliance which left two opponents trailing in her wake, before Cristiane picked out Andressa in yards of space on the left with a made-to-measure pass which invited the attacking midfielder to unleash a grasscutter which sizzled past the diving figure of Erin Nayler and the far post.
Back came the host nation, Wilkinson once more making Rilany's night a misery - it was to get worse with the increasingly intense rainfall, followed by a collision late-on with Percival which left the Brazilian fullback very much the worse for wear, to the extent that she couldn't complete the match.
This 28th minute episode saw Wilkinson cut a swathe to the by-line once more, from where she fired in a cross which arced over Thais' head, but found no-one in white on hand to turn the ball home. Four minutes later, Brazil threatened once more, Cristiane dummying Fabiana's cross to present Andressa with a shooting chance. Percival blocked this, but within seconds, Cristiane was threatening again. Latching onto the rebound from Debora's partial charge-down of a Nayler clearance, the striker dribbled through two challenges then swept past a third before unleashing a drive which the Football Ferns' custodian tipped round the post.
The host nation countered this effort by hitting the crossbar seven minutes before half-time. Hassett played the ball wide to Percival, this time operating on the left flank after having taken a corner seconds earlier. The fullback picked out Wilkinson with her cross, and the striker's header clipped the top of the bar - the closest either side had come to scoring to this point.
That situation changed five minutes later, when Brazil took the lead. Cristiane's thirty-five yarder was tipped round the post by Nayler, and from the resulting Miraildes corner, Rosana rattled the upright with a drive before Cristine rammed home the rebound via the same post.
Brazil's advantage was very nearly a short-lived one. Straight from the kick-off, the aggrieved Football Ferns tore downfield, Gregorius leading the charge. Her pass towards Hearn saw the number nine set up Wilkinson for a low drive which Thais could only parry, then scramble to safety as the Football Ferns' most potent attacking weapon of the first forty-five minutes raced in looking to turn home the rebound.

The second spell was barely eighty seconds old when the Football Ferns went close to equalising. Percival's angled ball in towards the near post saw Thais flapping wildly at the delivery, but she made enough contact on it to clear it as far as Wilkinson. She met it flush on the volley, but her effort cannoned to safety off Gregorius, who was felled by her team-mate's ferociously struck shot.  As the falling rain increased in intensity, so did the feeling evident in the clash, which wasn't aided by some of referee Anna-Marie Keighley's well-intentioned decisions throughout proceedings. While her eagerness to allow play to flow as much as possible was admirable, particularly given the increasingly challenging playing conditions, there were numerous occasions when free-kicks - and perhaps the odd penalty - were warranted, but weren't given.  Slowly but surely, tempers started to fray, with Rilany unsurprisingly one whose fuse was sparking, given the twin menace Wilkinson and Percival running at her posed. She lashed out at the latter on one occasion, prompting a reaction from Percival which brought about an immediate gathering of the clans - feelings were running high at this point. The situation wasn't aided when Hoyle went in a tad late on Tayla moments later, a challenge which prompted the first yellow card of the evening. The second soon followed, Miraildes the recipient after a rugged challenge on Gregorius in the 63rd minute, which prompted some activity on the Football Ferns' bench.

It also prompted a quickly taken free-kick by Erceg which saw Percival beat one player before shooting tamely. Brazil cleared the danger, much to the chagrin of the fullback, who was kicking herself for squandering New Zealand's best chance of the half thus far.
Gregorius was replaced by Rosie White in the 67th minute, and four minutes later, she contributed to a move which earned a corner. Percival's well-flighted delivery was met by a bullet header from Wilkinson which cannoned back off the crossbar. Brazil scrambled the ball to safety, but they had been desperately close to losing their lead. The inclement conditions were proving really challenging for both teams as play moved into the later stages, as were some of referee Keighley's calls - how one foul on Hearn, in particular, came to be a Brazil free-kick defied logic. The offended player wasn't slow in making her feelings, however valid, known, which drew a brief but stern rebuke from the official in response.
Cue a late flourish from the Football Ferns, and the rare sight - in this match - of Riley's attacking instincts being exploited. Hearn inspired the move, but the fullback's contribution was the critical factor in an opening which Hassett looked to capitalise upon.
Her shot was blocked to safety, but seconds later, the 1,957 fans who gathered midst the rain and wind were cheering with delight as "The Golazo Girl" drew the Football Ferns deservedly level. Hearn again was the instigator, a little slide-rule pass into Wilkinson's stride allowing her to once more run at a defence which had managed to contain the threat she posed during the second spell by doubling and at times tripling the numbers she had to take on.
On this occasion, however, Wilkinson was one-on-one with Tayla, but instead of driving for the by-line, she opted for an early, clipped cross into the goalmouth. Flying in to meet it was White, whose close-range header brought about a parity the Football Ferns richly merited.
They had to survive a late Brazilian flurry - substitute Maurine headed over in the aftermath of an Andressa free-kick - but when the final whistle sounded, the champions of Oceania had earned New Zealand's second draw with Brazilian opposition inside a fortnight.
On Thursday, from 6.30pm at Owen Delany Park, Tony Readings' charges will be aiming to go one better, and crown the Football Ferns' 200th "A" international with the win they will feel they could have had in this fixture against the highest-ranked international opponents, gender regardless, to ever visit these shores.

F'ball Ferns:    
Nayler; Percival, Stott, Erceg, Riley; Hassett, Hoyle (booked, 57), Hearn, Longo (Yallop, 75); Wilkinson, Gregorius (White, 67)

Thais (Luciana Maria, 88); Fabiana, Bruna, Tayla, Rilany (Monica, 90); Thaisa, Miraildes (booked, 63); Debora (Maurine, 76),
Andressa, Rosana (Raquel, 82); Cristiane

Referee:     Anna-Marie Keighley


Wilkinson threatens Brazil in the wet

Hannah Wilkinson was a regular threat to the Brazilian defense at a sodden Mt Smart Stadium on Monday. Photo by Photosport.

With a touch of luck, Football Ferns striker Hannah Wilkinson would have trudged off Mt Smart Stadium on Monday with boots full of water but a couple of goals against Brazil to lighten the load.. As it was, the 22-year-old – who hit the cross bar twice - was left frustrated by a performance which ticked a lot of boxes except the final one – the result.

“I think we were the better team overall and I definitely think we could have beaten them,” Wilkinson said. 

“We had our chances, which is exciting because it means we’re creating chances, but certainly hitting that crossbar twice was very frustrating.” 

Operating primarily on the right flank, the 57-cap striker was consistently getting into crossing positions and dribbling dangerously into the Brazil penalty area, Wilkinson saying her opposition played right into her hands.

“I noticed immediately I wasn’t being marked very tightly. They were pushing forward and leaving me with so much space out on the flank so I was always looking for the ball in behind because there was so much space. It really played to my strengths.” 

The late equaliser came in exactly those circumstances as Wilkinson shook free and delivered a terrific cross onto the head of White who made no mistake.

“It was a good ball through from Amber and I just saw Rosie in a perfect spot and she finished it really well. It was awesome. I got so excited when she finished it.” 

Looking ahead to Thursday’s second encounter between the teams, Wilkinson says there is still room for improvement in possession for a Football Ferns side which controlled the tempo of the match for large chunks. 

“We said at halftime we had more time than we thought we had. I think we could have looked up and played forward a little more maybe but the main thing is finishing our chances, we’re creating them well enough but we need to finish them off.”

Soaked to the skin at the final whistle, Wilkinson, who spends the majority of her year at the University of Tennessee in the southern United States, was playing in conditions almost foreign to her after her time away.

“It’s been a while since I’ve played in something like that. My boots were filled with water by the end of the game but that’s good old New Zealand for you.



White levels in Mt Smart downpour

Rosie White scored an 85th minute equaliser as the Football Ferns drew 1-1 with world number six Brazil in horrible conditions at Mt Smart Stadium on Monday.

Rosie White and Betsy Hassett celebrate White's equaliser late in the game against Brazil on Monday. Photo by Photosport

After Brazil opened the scoring just two minutes from the break as Cristiane tucked the ball home in a crowded penalty area in the aftermath of a corner, it took until the last five minutes for the Football Ferns to draw level. 

After several near misses from the lively Hannah Wilkinson - who saw two headers come back off the bar – it was substitute White who headed in a Wilkinson cross. 

It had seemed, until White’s intervention, the New Zealand side were going to be frustrated in defeat which would have been a harsh penalty on the Football Ferns – ranked 20 in the world – as the home side controlled possession well and regularly threatened the Brazilian goal throughout the contest played in driving rain. 

Football Ferns coach Tony Readings was left frustrated his side had not got the reward he felt they deserved from a performance which thoroughly tested the world number six side. 

“We’ve played like that all year and similar to today we’ve not got the rewards we could have from the game,” Readings said. 

“I’m disappointed really, we had a couple of penalties we didn’t get and a couple of chances we could have done a bit better with and I thought we could have won by a couple today but we’ll learn from that.” 

A game played in torrential rain took on an increasingly physical tone as the Football Ferns stood up to their opposition, typified by a strong defensive display from midfielder Katie Hoyle who earned a yellow card for a robust challenge mid-way through the second half. 

“It was always going to become a physical battle,” Readings said, “it always does in conditions like that. I’m proud of the way we hung in there won the physical contests. In the second half as the conditions got worse, we got stronger and got more physical.”

Wilkinson, who played a big hand in White’s leveller – delivering an inch-perfect cross for the UCLA striker to head home – was impressive throughout the contest as the Northland product’s pace and strength proved tough for Brazil to deal with. 

“Hannah has been one of best players this year,” Readings said, “she’s been outstanding and tonight was another example of the threat she has. She’s got pace, she’s strong and she gives the best defenders in the world trouble.”

After the final whistle, Readings saw the telltale signs of a team eager to keep their upward momentum of recent years rolling.

“You see the reaction in the players as they came off the pitch. A year ago they may have been celebrating with a draw but the players are really disappointed. Not with the performance, but our goals are always to win games the way we want to play.” 

The teams now head to Taupo on Tuesday for the second game of the series - the 200th international for the Football Ferns - at Owen Delany Park on Thursday. 

Match details

Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Crowd: 1957

Football Ferns 1 (Rosie White 85’) 
Brazil 1 (Cristiane 43’) 
Halftime: 0-1 

New Zealand:
 1. Erin Nayler (GK), 2. Ria Percival, 4. Katie Hoyle, 5. Abby Erceg (capt), 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 9. Amber Hearn, 10. Sarah Gregorius (13. Rosie White 66’), 12. Betsy Hassett, 16. Annalie Longo (11. Kirsty Yallop 75’), 17. Hannah Wilkinson 
Substitutes not used: 15. Meikayla Moore, 18. Katie Bowen, 20. Helen Collins, 21. Rebecca Rolls (GK), 26. Daisy Cleverley