Because this is a Women’s World Cup year, I have decided to countdown to the tournament by providing a short soccer/fitness related preview of each of the 24 participating nations. In this instalment, I will look at New Zealand, who is making their 4th appearance at the Women’s World Cup, and also their 3rd in succession dating back to the 2007 tournament in China. In their previous appearances, New Zealand have never advanced past the group stage. This year, they have been drawn in Group A, along with Canada, China, and the Netherlands. They play their first match against the Netherlands on June 6th, 2015.
Competing and having to qualify for the World Cup out of the Oceanic Football Confederation (OFC) has had both positive and negative effects on New Zealand’s soccer program. On the one hand, qualifying for major tournaments is relatively easier for them than it is for countries in other continents, because the level of competition in Oceania is weaker than it is in other continents. On the other hand, this lack of strong competition can make it more difficult for the national team players to develop and maximize their performance. The fact that the team did not qualify for the World Cup tournaments prior to 2007 may be related to this lack of high level competition.
Interestingly. FIFA.com has reported that the more recent success of the New Zealand women’s soccer teams has coincided with an increase in the number of New Zealand players playing internationally, either in professional clubs in Europe, the United States, or Asia, and also in colleges in the United States. In a country where the local competition is not strong, having national team players consistently exposed to better competition by playing in other higher level leagues around the world can certainly improve the quality of their play when they return for international duty. Presently, 70% of the players in the New Zealand national team (14 of the 20 on the roster) ply their trade internationally as opposed to in the local domestic league.
Can this increase in international experience help New Zealand advance out of the group stage for the first time in their history? We will have to wait and see what happens in 1 month’s time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.