Hay: Football Ferns look to be a special group of players




It should come as little surprise the Football Ferns are once again punching above their weight against the glamour nations of world football.

After all, they are ranked the 18th best side in the world. With Fifa's Women's World Cup in Canada in June, signs are promising the Ferns will be doing much more than making up the numbers. This week's back-to-back draws against Spain, a country with a population of 47 million, many of whom live for football, shows how competitive coach Tony Readings' side is.

This is a team that appears to be destined for something special. Two draws against Brazil and a narrow 2-1 loss to France (the third-best side in the world) in 2014 provided an inkling this team is not just talented but incredibly focused and driven. Readings has a group of women that have clearly brought into his philosophy, which is the biggest battle for coaches at the international level of the game. Coaching a New Zealand national side has numerous challenges, but the primary task is galvansing a group of players who ply their trade in club environments throughout the world. Getting them to buy into one style of play is a skill in itself, and something Readings has clearly mastered.

The Ferns should be celebrated for their achievements. They are not just good for women's sport, but sport in general in this country. As role models for young athletes, their commitment and pursuit for excellence is as good as any individual or team representing New Zealand.

* Winston Reid re-signing a long-term contract with the club that took a calculated gamble on him is a clever move. What felt like the most protracted contract negotiations of all time, finally had a happy ending. Why? Because West Ham suits Reid as much as Reid suits West Ham.

The All Whites captain has forged a cult following amongst the Hammers faithful through his incredible athleticism and winning mentality. We may never know if he was good enough to cement a spot in a top 6 team, one consistently fighting for a spot in Europe. The transfer talk of Liverpool, Arsenal or Tottenham is irrelevant now. From a selfish point of view, one taken with the All Whites in mind, West Ham is the best fit.

Reid has proven himself at the East London club. He is the long-term club captain in waiting.

He will get as much game time as his body can handle at West Ham, which is good for the All Whites. The last thing Anthony Hudson needs is another top All White being a "bit part" player for his club. There is nothing quite like match sharpness and hardness, especially when our national team relies on the likes of Reid so heavily.

At the other end of the spectrum, Ricki Herbert's appointment as the U-23 coach of Papua New Guinea came as a surprise. Less that five years ago he was sitting on top of the world having led the All Whites on an undefeated journey of the Fifa World Cup, as well as taking the Wellington Phoenix to unprecendented heights in the A-League. He was being touted for much bigger and better things, an interview to take over at West Ham was part of the mix. It seems an extrodinary fall from grace.

The silver lining is that he's employed, unlike many coaches around the world. It's a reminder to enjoy the highs while they last.

June 6: Start of FIFA WORLD CUP 2015 FIRST ROUND (pool play)

All games to be televised in USA

June 6: World Cup NZ v. Netherlands (Edmonton, Canada)

Tickets on sale at FIFA.com.

June 11: NZ v. Canada (Edmonton, Canada)

If you are coming we will be staying at the Radisson Hotel, Edmonton South more .

Between games we are going to check out Banff National Park. more

June 15: NZ v. China (Winnipeg, Canada)


Start of knock-out play (16 of the 24 teams advance).

NZ matches up well with all three teams in its pool.


For updates you can access this page from http://aliriley.com. Click on Matches from the top menu.