New Zealand are eliminated from the U20 World Cup

New Zealand’s bid for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica has ended.

The Junior Football Ferns had to beat Colombia by two goals in their last group game and only managed a 2-2 draw with the South Americans on Thursday.

It always looked like a difficult task as New Zealand had scored just once in their last two games but they will look back on a missed opportunity as Colombia were reduced to 10 players towards the end of the first half.

New Zealand failed to capitalize on an early lead after a wonderful Milly Clegg goal and then conceded a second-half goal against the defeated South Americans to make it 1-1.

A long-range shot by Charlotte Lancaster in the 71st minute gave hope for a revival, but there were no clear chances.

Colombia were the better team throughout the game, their pace and openness in offense too much for the Ferns, and New Zealand’s administration left a little to be desired at crucial moments.

Alyssa Whinham was again to be singled out as a creator, while captain Kate Taylor held together well in defence, but coach Gemma Lewis failed to find the right recipe for the momentum with her second-half substitutions.

Overall, the tournament was a solid if not spectacular performance by the Ferns given the high hopes for this generation.

They managed to draw against Mexico (1-1) before being outplayed by Germany (3-0) after a brief turnaround.

On Thursday, they showed some of their best football matches of the tournament – in an open, entertaining game – before finally running out of breath.

They got off to a brilliant start thanks to some magic from Clegg in the third minute.

Marisa Van Meer found the young Auckland United striker who – complete with a nutmeg – turned superbly into her cover before flicking from the edge of the box into the far corner.

Emily Clegg of New Zealand celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal. Photo / Getty

16-year-old Clegg has looked good at this level, with a similarly impressive goal against Australia in June.

But the Ferns didn’t capitalize on their advantage and conceded just seven minutes later.

They were overly ambitious – and perhaps naïve – in trying to play too much football deep in their half.

Gisela Robledo had two quick chances, but the Ferns didn’t learn their lesson.

They again gave up possession in a dangerous area, allowing Linda Caicedo to fire home from outside the area with goaltender Murphy Sheaff having no chance.

This began a period of dominance in which the South Americans missed several more opportunities.

New Zealand had some moments but were often behind. But the picture of the game turned completely in the 42nd minute when Colombian defender Yirleidys Minota was sent off for a foul on Ava Pritchard.

It was a tough call – probably worth a yellow at best – but the referee settled on red after a lengthy VAR review, with the slow-motion replays making it worse.

New Zealand had a couple of half-chances after the break, with a wide-deflected Ava Collins shot being the best – before Caicedo scored their brilliant second goal in the 63rd minute.

She stormed past already cautioned reserve defender Te Reremoana Walker before finishing past Sheaff.

Lancaster’s 25-yard shot was spectacular as her sweeping cross floated into the net after Colombia only half-cleared a corner from Ferns.

They gave the Ferns hope late but couldn’t find a winner as Colombia continued despite more than eight minutes of added time.

New Zealand 2 (Milly Clegg 3, Charlotte Lancaster 71)
Colombia 2 (Linda Caicedo 10, 63)
half time: 1-1

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