The Football Ferns are embracing the challenge of taking on defending gold medallists USA in their Olympic quarterfinal at St James Park, Newcastle on Friday. Far from being daunted by the task of facing the standard bearers of womens football in the Ferns first ever knockout match at a major event, the Ferns are taking the same relaxed, confident but focussed approach into the game as they have done all tournament. Helping soothe the nerves is the memory of Februarys international in Dallas when New Zealand led the World number one until the 89th minute before losing 2-1. That match, the first of coach Tony Readings tenure, began a year where the Football Ferns showed a new level of confidence, ability and results on the world stage that led the team travelling to London talking about challenging for medals rather than just being credible competitors. Readings says heading into a match against the three times gold medallists without any hint of fear is a sign of how far the team have come. History shows that whoever wins the gold medal will have to beat the USA. Theyve played in all four Olympic finals and won three of them so the path to the podium goes through them. Were comfortable with that, not just because you expect to have to play the world number one if you want to be contesting the medals but also because we did pretty well against them in February. That was our first game since the world cup and we were already a better team compared to that tournament. Weve only got better with each game since, adding new ways to nullify threats or expose weaknesses. Readings says the team are aiming high. Weve made it to the quarterfinals for the first time but that wasnt the goal and the players arent content with that. We came here, like every other team, to win a gold medal. There has been no let off in training from the players, no sign of them sitting back and being happy with a place in the last eight, no sign that they thought the job was done. Weve grown through this tournament in the three games weve played and I believe well grow again tomorrow because were looking to get a result from this tournament. We feel weve played well so far but weve got another gear to go. Readings once again has a full squad to choose from with Hannah Wilkinson returning from suspension. The match kicks off at 1.30am Saturday morning (NZT) and is live on Sky Sport 1. Womens Olympic Football Tournament Quarterfinal New Zealand v USA St James Park, Newcastle 2.30pm August 3 (1.30am, August 4 NZT) Live on Sky Sport 1 London 1908 Olympic Summer Games Rowing
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