Football: New Zealand ready for Chinese ‘new guard’

Football: New Zealand ready for Chinese ‘new guard’
China's players warm up during a training session at the Winnipeg Stadium on the eve of their Group A football match of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup against New Zealand.

WINNIPEG, Canada - Coach Tony Readings is confident New Zealand can beat the Chinese 'new guard' to advance out of a group stage for the first time at the Women's World Cup.

China are second in Group A behind Canada with three points after beating the Netherlands 1-0, with New Zealand bottom with one point after holding the hosts to a goalless draw.

And the two countries go head-to-head in the final group match on Monday in Winnipeg with all to play for.

But Readings said he is confident given the Kiwis' previous results against China.

"We know China so well, we've played them more than we've played any other team," said Readings.

New Zealand, ranked one place above the Chinese at 17, have never advanced out of the group phase in their three previous appearances.

The Chinese, who were a footballing power in the 1990s finishing runners-up at the 1999 World Cup, have one of the youngest squads in Canada.

"Both teams need a result of some nature to get through." said Readings.

"In the last three years we've played them more than any other team. During that time they've tried to reinvest in younger players.

"The older guard stopped playing and then they brought this younger guard through. They're like us, a team that is still growing, still emerging." The sides are evenly balanced - in their last two matches New Zealand won 4-0 and China the other 1-0.

"It's always going to be close. It's going to be a battle between two evenly balanced teams, and will come down to who is best on the day."

"We haven't scored in the first two games and will need to score at least one to go through to the next round." He added: "I don't think China have any absolute standout player but they have a collective understanding as a team, particularly their front four.

"There's a real collectiveness, they are very well coached, very well organised that's their strength." China coach Hao Wei said his side were wary of New Zealand's record goalscorer Amber Hearn.

"We analysed the New Zealand team and their number nine is excellent," he said.

A draw should suffice to see the Chinese through but Hao insisted: "We will play to win not to be safe. Our team is making obvious progress. "

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