The New Zealand Women's Football team took on and defeated South Africa 4-1 in an Olympic Games lead up test at Luso Brasileiro Stadium today.
The New Zealand team were out to make their intentions known, fully aware that their first Olympic opponent USA, narrowly defeated South Africa 1-0 earlier this month.
"It feels so good, it was a really big win for us which is really important as it sends a message to the US about the level we are playing at." said Football Fern Ali Riley
The team, made up of several experienced players including Kirsty Yallop who brought up her 100th game today and Rebekah Stott who played her 50th game, have bonded well with some of the new members in the team.
"It was great that we had six subs today, so many players got to get on and get a run in - it's really important that we have depth during the games as it's a really long tournament." Riley said.
Coach Tony Readings says there is still a lot more to come from his charges and will be looking to use the few remaining days before their Olympic campaign kicks off to take their performances to another level.
“It was nice to get a win and score some goals so close to the tournament,” he says.
“Overall, we’re happy with the performance but we know there’s a lot more we can do to improve. The key now is to get some rest in tomorrow, then get back into it and try to make those improvements in the next four days.”
The damage was done by goal scorers Hannah Wilkinson, Amber Hearn, Annalie Longo and Sarah Gregorius, while the match was also notable for a pair of individual milestones.
Speaking of Yallop, Readings said “It’s been really good to see her mature, both on and off the pitch. What you don’t she is what she does behind the scenes and that’s the bonus bit,”
“It’s really good to have another player with 100 caps and we try to keep chalking them up because, the more experience we can get these players, the better the team will be for it.”
The squad does not have long to bask in the glory of the pleasing South Africa result though and the thoughts of Readings have already turned to implementing a game plan against the States in that all-important Olympic opener.
“It’s all about our first game of the tournament now. We’ve been very focused but now we’re going to turn it up another notch again,” he says.
“We’ve covered a lot of stuff in a short space of time so now it’s about letting the information settle in and doing some finishing touches. The team is in a really good space and we’re pretty confident going into these next four days that we can make the improvements we need.”
For Riley, having her family in the empty closed stadium alongside Chef de Mission Rob Waddell was a real highlight.
"I can't believe they have come all the way here to Brazil!" she said.
"Okay they haven't come all the way from New Zealand, they have come from LA but it was so exciting to see them as well as Rob Waddell and the other kiwi supporters that came along."
"We are here in Brazil, not in South Africa or New Zealand, so it was cool to have people watching and hear them cheer when we did some good plays or scored a goal."
The New Zealand Women's Football team leave for Bela Horizonte tomorrow after four days of experiencing village life.
"I love Rio! It's been cool so far, every day it gets better and better and you can feel the excitement building." Riley said.
"It's good that we got the time to experience the village and team culture but now it's time for us to leave, get to our hotel in Bela Horizonte and focus on our games."
"We are here to win the whole thing but we want to take it one game at a time."
The Women's Football Team take on USA in their opening game on August 3rd - Check your app schedule for local times.
Goal scorers: Amber Hearn, Hannah Wilkinson, Sarah Gregorius and Annalie Longo
Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Jasmine Pereira Meikayla Moore Rebekah Stott Rebecca Rolls Katie Bowen Sarah Gregorius Erin Nayler Hannah Wilkinson Betsy Hassett Amber Hearn Kirsty Yallop Rosie White Ali Riley Ria Percival Annalie Longo Katie Duncan Anna Green Abby Erceg Football