Saturday 9th August: NZ vs. Norway
Breakfast was between 8.00 and 9.30, followed by our usual match-day light walk and stretch session. Immediately after the stretch we had our group meetings again (attackers/midfield, defense/goalkeepers), where we went over what we need to start, keep, and stop doing as individuals to get us the win against Norway.
We had lunch between 12 and 1 p.m. and then free time until the final team meeting at 4:15p.m. The coach didn’t have too much to say to us this time, because we all knew exactly what we needed to do today. He just gave us a few tactical reminders, presented, as always, on his famous power point slides.
The meeting was followed by a pre-match meal at 4:45p.m., and then we had about an hour to get ready before leaving for the stadium. We arrived there at about 6 p.m., a good while before kick off at 7:45 p.m. We managed to catch the end of the Japan vs. U.S. game: the U.S. went on to beat them 1-0. A win tonight would guarantee us a spot in the quarterfinals, and although Norway is ranked fifth in the world, we were ready to play.
We started off confidently, but unfortunately Norway got an early goal, which is exactly what they did against the U.S. For the rest of the game we dominated possession, and had a few crucial chances on goal that we didn’t exploit. Norway dropped right off, and made it quite hard for us to produce anything. We kept pressing and pressing, but just couldn’t finish anything off in our attacking third. The full-time whistle blew, leaving us distraught, once again, over the fate of the game. This result was even harder to take than the tie against Japan, because we all knew we played better than Norway, and deserved that win more than them.
We didn’t get back to the hotel until about 11 p.m., and therefore had a really late dinner. Some of the girl’s families were able to come and visit us at the hotel (though they had some difficulties dealing with security), and stayed up chatting for a while. Most of the girls went to bed shortly after dinner though, as we were transferring early the next morning to Chen Yang - two hours by train from Quinhuangdao.
Sunday 10th August
Got up at 7 a.m. to get on breakfast and do some last minute packing before heading to the train station at 8.30 a.m. We arrived in Chen Yang at around 11.30 a.m., and were greeted with clapping and cheering from the hotel staff when we got there. The hotel is huge, and only about a five-minute drive from the stadium we’ll be playing at.
After being shown to our rooms we met for lunch and then had a bit of free time. The players that started against Norway had a recovery pool session, while the subs had a more intense fitness and core session. A quick shower, and then we were all off to watch our NZ boys play against Brazil….a Brazil team that included Ronaldinho, Diego, Anderson, Lucas….TO NAME A FEW! The stadium was
packed: 80,000 strong, and every time Ronaldinho touched the ball the whole crowd went crazy. Brazil scored two goals before half time, and though it was so amazing to see some of the Brazilian tricks and moves, it would have been nicer to watch if they weren’t doing it against our fellow countrymen!
We only watched the first half as we had to get back for dinner and then a team meeting. The meeting was a review of our game against Norway, and we pulled out parts of our game that we have to change before we play against the States.
After the meeting we had free time for the rest of the evening…and this is when a HUGE highlight of the tour occurred: we got up the courage to go down to the Brazilian men’s floor and made our way to the party that was going on in the hotel room of none other than Ronaldinho himself. Some of the U.S. girls were already in there talking to the guys, and there was music playing and a few of the guys were dancing. We couldn’t believe our luck. Ronaldinho – one of the best players in the world, worth tens of millions - was sitting there and signing autographs for us and letting us take pictures with him. The girls were buzzing, and some stuck around for a little while, but I personally felt bad for the guy, and let him be…after I got a picture and his autograph of course! You can’t let these opportunities pass you by!