Football: Success against USA not about winning for Football Ferns, says coach Jitka Klimkova

Results aren't the driver of how the Football Ferns will judge the success of their two friendly matches against the juggernauts of the USA, with one eye always on this year's World Cup in New Zealand.

Six months out from the Football World Cup, New Zealand were given a stark reminder of what they'll be up against when they take on some of the game's powerhouses.

Across 90 minutes in the capital, an understrength Ferns had only 25 percent possession, and a solitary shot on target in Wednesday's 4-0 loss in Wellington.

With the two matches falling outside of an official FIFA window, the Football Ferns have been forced to field a side missing key players, with clubs around the world under no obligation to release them for international duty.

Football Ferns goalkeeper Erin Nayler against USA.
Football Ferns goalkeeper Erin Nayler against USA. Photo credit: Photosport

Wednesday's loss saw New Zealand keep the US scoreless for the opening half, before the floodgates opened in the second.

It will be highly unlikely that the Ferns will face any opponents better than what they are now, with the US being the reigning world champions.

But for coach Jitka Klimkova, the experience many of her younger players will gain will prove invaluable come the World Cup and beyond.

"For us, the most important thing is the process," said Klimkova. "How we work together, how we train together, how we build the culture together six months prior to the World Cup.

"It's an amazing opportunity for the players who we haven't seen for a while and haven't been with us yet.

"That's how we measure our success during this January tour."

Klimkova also hailed the performances of her more inexperienced players, despite being outclassed by the USA.

Because while the Football Ferns struggled, their coach emphasises the true benefits of this month's games are still to be seen.

"I think everybody who played that game felt, and everybody could see, left everything on the field."

Football Ferns captain Ali Riley takes selfies with fans.
Football Ferns captain Ali Riley takes selfies with fans. Photo credit: Photosport

"Everybody really stepped up during the game. We know we're facing tough opposition, we know there's a lot of players in the team who're having [their] first experience of playing for the national team.

"A lot of players haven't been playing for a while, or haven't started for us.

"It was great to see those experienced players step up, and actually lead the team and show that they're great role models for the younger players who follow their lead."

Friday also marks exactly six months to the day that the 2023 World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand begins, coincidentally at the same venue as Saturday's clash.

And for the team themselves, the scope of what's going to happen to football in New Zealand over the coming year will hopefully see a shift in the beautiful game for generations to come.

"New Zealand is going to get a bit of a shock when the World Cup comes," said forward Gabi Rennie. "I don't think anyone's really prepared for how big of an event the women's World Cup is.

"It's one of the biggest sporting events in the world - men or women. New Zealand is going to get a shock.

"I think we're going to surprise ourselves. Even with the home games we've had here, people are showing up and enjoying it.

"Having all the boys and girls coming to the games, wanting signatures and being such passionate fans is really exciting.

"I think it's kind of surprised a lot of us, how into it Kiwi fans are getting."