Home tears as co-host New Zealand exit Women’s World Cup
New Zealand captain Ali Riley admitted there were plenty of tears among the Football Ferns after the co-hosts bowed out of the Fifa Women’s World Cup on Sunday.
A goalless draw against Switzerland in Dunedin was not enough for New Zealand to reach the knock-out stages, while the Swiss advanced after finishing top of Group A.
“There are a lot of tears out there, but they should be so proud to finish on four points,” Riley said as Norway advanced on goal difference at New Zealand’s expense, having chalked up the same points tally.
“We gave everything. It was a really good performance, especially defensively. We fought really hard.”
New Zealand had high hopes of reaching the last 16 after a 1-0 win over Norway in their opening game.
It was the Football Ferns’ first-ever win at a World Cup to end a 15-match winless streak dating back to the inaugural 1991 tournament.
However, a shock defeat to the Philippines left New Zealand needing to beat the Swiss, but the home side failed to get the goal they needed.
“We said to leave everything on the pitch, make this country proud, show who we are. And I think we did that,” said Riley.
“Switzerland are a good team and I wish them all the luck.”
Their opening win over Norway at Auckland’s Eden Park drew a crowd of around 42,000 — a record for New Zealand in either men’s or women’s football.
Riley had a clear message for her team.
“Be proud. Be proud of what we’ve achieved with the crowd cheering us on,” she said.
“I hope that little girls across New Zealand will start playing football and achieve whatever they put their mind to.”
Fighting back tears, New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimkova admitted being “super emotional because everyone’s very disappointed about the result, but this team can be so proud”.
The former Czech Republic defender said playing three home matches in front of bumper, near-sell-out crowds showed the support New Zealand had at this World Cup.
“It’s what we hoped for and our crowds showed how much they care. We wanted to make them proud and I believe we did,” she added.