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Young Football Ferns' 'team culture is magnificent'

Eva Corlett, Reporter

The coach of the record-breaking under 17 women's football team says their bronze medal has helped pave the way for bright sporting futures.

The team made New Zealand sporting history yesterday, beating Canada 2-1 to come third at the FIFA under-17 Women's World Cup in Uruguay.

It is the first time a New Zealand team has taken out an award at a FIFA event, and it picked up a few other firsts along the way.

Grace Wisnewski of Hamilton Wanderers scored both goals at the stadium in Montevideo.

Wisnewski's first goal came after just 15 seconds, the quickest goal in FIFA under-17 World Cup finals history.

She added a second after 13 minutes. Wisnewski also hit the goal post in the second half.

Canada scored after 65 minutes and dominated the rest of the game, but the New Zealanders were able to hold them out to take the victory.

The team's captain, Anneke Mittendorff, said the Canadian side was tough but New Zealand's strong defence showed how solid the team was.

"I think it's down to our determination and our work rate. Both on and off the field we connect as a team, our team culture is magnificent.

"Our mentality to dare to dream is really what kept us through this tournament."

The player of the match award was handed to Grace Wisnewski.

Her regional Hamilton Wanderers Women's head coach Steve Cox was not surprised.

"She's probably the most natural footballer I've ever had the pleasure to know."

The rest of her regional team watched back home and were buzzing, he said.

"For New Zealand football over all it just makes it all reachable and achievable."

He said players had "reached out and touched it" and that would inspire future generations.

"The young ones coming through can have the same belief and hopefully it will make the game stronger."

The Under-17's coach Leon Birnie said the players exceeded expectations.

"It's something these girls will have for the rest of their life, it's such a special moment."

Mr Birnie expects a number of players will be shoulder tapped for scholarships in the United States.

That will be fostered by the Football Ferns Development Programme, which pushes players into the best footballing and education programmes available.

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