Steinmetz and Football Ferns fall to Portugal

It was a tough night in the Waikato and Wanderer Malia Steinmetz, as the Ferns returned to play in Hamilton for the first time in over 30 years, going down 5-0 to World Cup hopefuls Portugal.

The Ferns lined up in a new formation: a 3-5-2, which gave Riley and Bott greater licence to utilise their attacking instincts and bomb up the wing. The starting XI also saw several new personnel combinations, as Gabi Rennie and Hannah Wilkinson started together up top for the first time, and Kate Taylor getting her first Ferns start.

Like the crowds in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, Hamilton got behind the Ferns, with a vocal crowd of 3788 turning out on a clear summer evening.

Hometown hero Liv Chance had the first opportunity of the game in the fifth minute, although her shot was comfortably blocked by Portugal’s Patricia Morais.

The scoring was opened by Portugal’s star Jessica Silva in the 18th minute, nodding home Lucia Alves’ cross. Instead of letting the early setback hold them back, it sparked the Ferns’ most positive period of the match, as they first thought they’d equalised after a flowing move from kick off. but Rennie’s finish was chalked off after Hannah Wilkinson was caught offside in the build up. Liv Chance was the next to come close, followed by CJ Bott shortly after.

Portugal’s second goal could also be traced back to the feet of a Silva shortly before halftime, which could also be traced to the feet of a Silva. After Portugal’s number 10 was upended by Taylor in the penalty area, and VAR eventually ruling in favour of the visitors, their captain Dolores Silva duly converted.

The third goal came at the same point in the second half that first, after Bowen was dispossessed by second half substitute Diana Silva, who teed up Ana Capeta to add a third 18 minutes into the re-start. She doubled her tally just minutes later, finishing smartly past Nayler.

Tatiana Pinto rounded off the scoring for Portugal, netting their fifth in the 79th minute.

Tonight wasn’t the start to the World Cup dress rehearsal that the Ferns were hoping for, nor the result with which they wanted to mark captain Ali Riley’s 150th cap, which head coach Jitka Klimková reflected on afterwards.

“I have to be really honest to our fans, our plan was different: we wanted to have a win and we lost five zero. And we know that we should be doing a better job, we should be possessing better, we should be defending better. So today it was not good enough and we deserved to lose today.”

Midfielder Liv Chance, playing in her hometown for the Ferns for the first time in her career, was gutted.

“Obviously I’m not happy. I’m at home and I want to play well and it’s hard to come back to Hamilton and not put on a good performance, but it’s about how we react now,” she said.

“A lot of those girls are disappointed in there. We let ourselves down. So I think, you know, now it’s about what we can do against Argentina and, pick our heads back up and, and [get ready for] the next [game].”

There’s little time for the side to dwell on the result, with the Ferns return to Waikato Stadium on Monday night to take on Argentina.