The Young Football Ferns managed a solitary goal victory over Finland in their opening encounter at the 2018 FIFA Under-17 World Cup at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo, Uruguay.
In their debut game of the tournament, Finland goalkeeper Anna Koivunen pulled off three breath-taking saves to keep them in the hunt.
Group A: New Zealand 1 - 0 Finland (NZ: Kelli Brown 41')
New Zealand’s initial effort on goal came through from 40 yards out by Amelia Abbott, which was tipped over the crossbar by Koivunen.
Kelli Brown then came up with a wonderfully placed curling right-footed shot which found the top corner of the right post from 40 yards out. Koivunen got her fingertips on the ball but could not prevent it from going in.
In the second half, Maggie Jenkins had a golden opportunity after Kelli Brown provided her with a weighted pass. Jenkins spun around Joanna Tynnilä to free herself and rifled in a right-footed shot, but Koivunen came up with a diving effort to force the ball away for a corner.
Finland’s only notable effort came from Annika Huhta’s left footed shot from the center of the box. But sadly for them, it took a deflection off a New Zealand defender and went off the right goalpost.
Anna Leat was rarely troubled by the Finland strikers even though Finland enjoyed the lion’s share of ball possession - 70%.
A weak back pass by the Finland defense left Grace Wisnewski free to pounce on the loose ball and unleash a thunderbolt from outside the penalty box. But Koivunen again leaped at full length towards her left to thwart the ball wide of the right post for a corner.
The Young Ferns struck six of their 11 efforts on target, while Finland managed just two of their seven attempts on the mark. The player of the match award went to the New Zealand captain Aneka Mittendorff.
New Zealand coach Leon Birnie would be happy with her team‘s performance today, but she was full of praise for Finland’s goalkeeper Koivunen.