Tuesday 5th August
Everyone woke this morning with a knot in their stomachs - our first game is tomorrow!
An early breakfast was followed by a light training session, where we each just did our own thing, focusing on the parts of our game that we needed to polish up before tomorrow.
Training was then followed by a big chunk of down time - a lot of the players had family to meet up with, and the rest of us relaxed to a game of cards or took afternoon naps. Just before dinner we had a team meeting where we looked at Japan in detail. We analyzed their set plays and their general game, and looked at ways to exploit them and how to prevent them exploiting us. We had already looked at Japan in detail in a previous meeting, so this was really just a refresh.
Dinner followed, and then straight after dinner we had another team meeting - this time in a more casual setting. We went down to the beachfront (literally just outside the door of the hotel) and split into two groups, attackers/midfielders, and defenders/keepers. In our groups, we each stated aspects of our personal game that we want to keep doing, and things we want to start and stop doing. After each person had spoken, the rest of the group would give you feedback, and add to your lists of things to start, stop, or keep doing. We are becoming very honest with one another, adding a lot to the spirit and togetherness of our team. No one takes criticism personally anymore, which is often hard to achieve with a team of women.
After the meeting, there was a bit of time to relax before going to bed and regenerating our bodies for the big day!
Wednesday 6th August: NZ vs. Japan
Breakfast was later this morning, as our game isn't until 5pm. Some people turned up at breakfast having slept like babies, but most people's sleep was sabotaged by thoughts of the game. It's hard to stop yourself from going through your roles over and over again when your head hits the pillow.
At 10am we all met for a walk and a light stretch to loosen up any tight muscles. A snack of bread and cereals was available between 11-11.30 and then down time until 1.30pm, where we had our final team meeting before the game. This was another reminder of how we need to approach the game if we want to win it. We were also presented an awesome message from the NZ U17's women's team that they had put onto video and sent through to the coaches, wishing us luck. Then, through skype, we connected through to the NZ congregation back at the Olympic Village. Hamish Carter, one of NZ's Olympic Gold Medalists, had a few words of wisdom for us, and wished us well. It was quite inspiring to say the least - realizing just how much support we really have from everyone.
At 2pm we had our pre-game meal, and left for the ground at 3pm. Prepped and ready, the team went out for the warm up at 4.10 and there was a good feeling buzzing around the team. The kiwi supporters made themselves known by yelling at the top of their lungs and cheering us all on. Kick off was at 5, the first event of the 2008 Olympics, and we were off to a good start. Our first goal came in the 35th minute or so, and then we were awarded a penalty and scored from it, making it 2-0 at half-time. It seemed like all our hard work was starting to pay off.
In the second half though, our luck turned. We weren't controlling the game as well as in the first half, and Japan just kept pressing. Japan held onto the ball much better this half, and as they are such tidy little players, they were slipping balls through us, at times far too easily, and started dominating the play. The referee then awarded them a fairly soft penalty, and Japan was back in the game. It's such a nerve-racking feeling to be up by only one goal. The goal gave Japan a surge of energy, and they kept entering our defensive third. The referee then awarded them a free kick, which the Japanese executed with class, and they tied up the match. The whistle blew shortly after their second goal, and we had given away our lead, only to tie 2-2. We were all so disappointed, and felt a little cheated out of our win; however, we still have two games left in our group, and we plan on giving the Norwegians, next up, something to talk about.
After the game we headed back to the hotel with fairly poor spirits, and, exhausted, called it a night.