Interview

Women’s World Cup: Heartbreak for Ali Riley but plenty of positives to take away

The Football Ferns lost 2-1 against Cameroon in their final group match yesterday and that resulted in elimination for Ali Riley’s team after three defeats in the 2019 edition.

The American-born New Zealand captain spoke to the official Chelsea website after the game about the team’s performance, her performance and next steps for the Kiwis.

New Zealand, who are ranked 19th in the world, had a chance of qualifying to the last-16 if they had overcome a physical Cameroon side (ranked 46th). However, their dreams of going through as one of four best third-placed teams came crashing down when Ajara Nchout earned Cameroon a win with the last kick of the game.

‘It’s hard right now to be positive about it, but I’m really proud of the team, and I think that if we had been a little more accurate in getting the ball in the back of the net it could have been different.

‘I think every tournament we play now it’s going to be just getting that much closer and at previous tournaments, I don’t know if teams have been that nervous about meeting us, but now it’s like we make everyone play their best against us,’ Riley said.

‘Right now we’re going to take a break to get a breather and make sure that we can look back on this experience and be positive.’

Although the Ferns are still seeking their first ever World Cup win after 15 attempts, with the 2020 Olympics approaching Riley is hoping the group of players stick together to continue their journey of development.

‘It felt like this was the last opportunity to do something with this group. Obviously, I’m hoping that everyone will stick around not even for just one more year, but for another cycle to the next World Cup.

‘New Zealand is putting a bid in to host it, and I really hope that we do have continuity. But it’s about growth and making sure that we are developing new young players coming through – Tom [Sermanni] is a huge factor in that and he is our coach through the Olympics so that’s a huge positive.

‘It’s really positive that we have the Olympics next year and another huge opportunity to represent our country and make them proud.

‘I think we can just build on this and as long as we can get support from our federation and if we get more and more fixtures from now and next July, I think the sky's the limit.’

Riley entered New Zealand’s national side in 2007 and has been the skipper since 2017, she has accumulated over 130 caps for her country and played every minute of the Football Ferns’ three games in this tournament.

‘I’m really proud of myself, but right now I feel like I have nothing left in the tank, so I think that is always an indication that you gave your all.

‘I really tried to attack more and put in lots of crosses, and I think I did that. It was tough at the end where we only left a couple of us at the back, it was always going to be a risk as they would be able to capitalise off of that.

‘I feel healthy coming out of a tournament and that’s always a good feeling – I feel really fit and bring on the next season,’ she said.

New Zealand’s World Cup journey consisted of playing The Netherlands in their opening group match, and they missed out on claiming three points when the European Champions scored in added time. Their second fixture was against Canada, and the North Americans scored two goals either side of the break with no reply from the Kiwis.

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