Ali Riley’s well-organised New Zealand could not manage to keep out a confident Canada side as they were defeated 2-0 in their second World Cup match at Stade des Alpes in Grenoble tonight.
An early second-half effort from Jessie Fleming and a close-range tap-in from Nichelle Prince denied Riley’s New Zealand of their first Women’s World Cup win, despite another strong, disciplined performance.
New Zealand suffered a cruel 1-0 defeat in their first group match against the Dutch as the Euro 2017 winners found a breakthrough in the 92nd minute from Jill Rood’s close-range header. Canada, on the other hand, won their first 2019 World Cup game against Cameroon when Lyon’s centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan headed home in the first half.
There was a lot at stake for both teams prior to this second match as the North Americans knew that a win would guarantee them a last 16 place, whereas this was said to be the biggest match in many of the Kiwi players’ lives as a point would have given them a good chance of advancing to the second round.
Blues defender Riley skippered the Football Ferns out against the side ranked fifth by FIFA in her usual left-back position and like their opening match against the Netherlands, her team absorbed pressure well and appeared to be quite content in doing so too. The New Zealanders set up in a 4-4-2 formation which allowed Riley to create width on the left flank on the break, when possible.
Although Canada were the firm favourites in this fixture, Tom Sermanni’s side yet again surprised and did not go down without a fight. The Canadians were quite clearly frustrated from the first half, and as expected, it was a tight and tense affair with few clear chances on goal.
However, the breakthrough came for the North Americans just minutes into the second half, and that was a sucker punch for Riley and her side who held their own throughout the first 45 minutes. Forward Prince raced onto a long pass down the left before she nipped past Rebekah Stott and chopped the ball across to Fleming to bury it into the corner of the net. Captain Riley tried to block Fleming’s shot but was unable to reach the 21-year-old’s effort in time.
Both Riley and New Zealand’s most-capped player, Ria Percival, pushed forward down the wings in an attempt to find a route back into the game. However, that left pockets of space in behind the defence for the Canadian attackers to take advantage of.
However the point the Football Ferns had longed for was entirely put out of reach when Canada doubled their lead on the 79th minute. A deep cross from the right bounced off the near post and Houston Dash’s Prince was there to poke the ball past Erin Nayler.
Despite a second defeat for Riley, there is still some hope in registering their first win and ending their 14-game drought of not winning a Women’s World Cup game when they face Cameroon in their final Group E match on Thursday in Montpellier. Mathematically there is a slim chance for the Football Ferns to go through to the second stage, but it lies with finishing among the best third-placed teams.