U-20 WWC: Sweden vs New Zealand

It’s not a well-kept secret that I have a newborn-sized soft spot for the Junior and Young Ferns. The only reason I didn’t recommend their match in that earlier conversation is that I’m selfish. If you’re a fan of soccer only at tournament time, I don’t want to share my favorite underdogs. They have a lot of potential and a good story. But New Zealand was drawn into a tough group this year and might not get a chance to show that they have improved and pulled themselves up into the running.

And overall, today’s game didn’t really show that. The fact that this is Sweden’s first youth world cup doesn’t count for anything. Playing Sweden was not going to be a cakewalk, but New Zealand had the better of the first half and looked like they could contend. Hannah Wilkinson opened scoring at 33′, right after Betsy Hassett picked up a yellow. However, luck ran ran out in the second and Sweden pulled themselves together faster than the Kiwis did. After Renee Leota hit the post and the crossbar, the Junior Ferns had little else in their attack until the final minutes. Sweden’s Antonia Goransson notched two goals in the second half and Sofia Jakobsson looked determined all game to tally one of her own.

The game ended an unfortunate 2-1 loss for New Zealand, with the Kiwis looking more dejected than the Brazilians did earlier. As I said on twitter, group play will not get any easier, and the players probably realized that this was their game to lose, given how they couldn’t put things together in the second. The defense needs work and the team needs cohesion.

I don’t think New Zealand is completely out of the running, but I really wish they could have sustained their first half momentum and at least earned a draw.

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