New Zealand can be proud of their Women’s World Cup campaign on home soil despite their group-stage exit, coach Jitka Klimkova said after a goalless draw with Switzerland on Sunday ended their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.
Co-hosting the tournament with Australia, New Zealand had never won a World Cup game in their previous five appearances. They began with a memorable 1-0 upset of Norway in Group A but a shock 1-0 defeat to the Philippines tempered expectations.
The Football Ferns again missed out on a place in the last 16, however, after finishing third in Group A with four points — their best ever showing at a World Cup.
“I’m very proud of our team and what we’ve done during this World Cup,” Klimkova said. “When I saw the fans around, the sold-out stadiums and the connection that we had with New Zealand… that’s what we were aiming for, that’s what we wanted.
“We were very close to achieving a historic result… We got four points and two clean sheets. That’s an amazing result from this team. I’m sure we inspired a lot of young girls and boys to start loving and playing football.
“I would say it’s been a successful tournament, even if we didn’t get out of the group… We wanted to make our nation proud and we’ve done it. I’m so glad our crowd and our nation responded the way they did. It means a lot to the players.”
Klimkova is set to remain in charge of New Zealand for next year’s Paris Olympics and the 2027 World Cup, having signed a six-year contract when she took over in September 2021.
The 48-year-old Czech said the World Cup campaign had laid an “amazing” foundation for the future.
“Now New Zealand understands who Football Ferns are,” Klimkova said. “I think being patient and taking the baby steps we’re taking now and just improving step by step, that’s how we want to approach our journey.
“It’s not always going to be perfect. We will have ups and downs. But we always want to look forward and look at what we can do better. That has been our approach since day one… Norway was such an emotional game with the first win ever.
“This team has huge talents, lots of young players that will have another opportunity to play at World Cups and Olympics… We are improving, we are getting better. Our performances here were solid, and that’s what we will build on.”
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