'New Zealand will play to win'

‘New Zealand will play to win’

  • Jitka Klimkova took charge of New Zealand last September

  • She wants the World Cup host team to spread attractive football

  • The football fern The United States, Iceland and the Czech Republic face off in the Shepelevs Cup

Jitka Klimková was appointed to command New Zealand in September 2021, and had to work remotely due to COVID-related border rules and controls. The restrictions have made any planning impossible, but the Czechs are slowly seeing the end of the tunnel. “I’m really looking forward to being in New Zealand and talking to my team face to face,” she said. FIFA.com from his country of origin.

Despite everything, I managed to organize matches in Canada and the Republic of Korea last year. “I am glad we took the risk of playing these friendlies, otherwise we will start our preparations now, without the experience we gained during these trips,” she said.

offensive redirection

The 47-year-old, who has coached youth teams in the USA, New Zealand and the Czech Republic and won the A-League with Canberra United, intends to instill a more attack-oriented spirit in football fern. However, letting go of a long tradition of defensive toughness won’t happen overnight.

“It’s about changing the mentalities and making the players understand that we want to keep possession and control the game as much as possible,” Klimkova explained. “We are not naive. We know that against some opponents we will go through stages without the ball, counters and quick transfers. We also need to be very compact in defense and be solid in duels. The team is not only asking to play in attack and I think she is ready for that.”

In the first match against Canada, the team enthusiastically adopted the new system. But when she led to the result, she resorted to defense. This lesson was useful to Klimokova. “We still have work to do, of course,” she admits, although her players have learned lessons from the first matches. “The next match against the same opponent showed this: we lost 0-1, while we suffered a 1-5 defeat before.”

“And so the players saw the difference between playing not to lose and playing to win. They need to see for themselves that the second option offers better chances. It may take time, but I am very patient and I will not give up. Whoever we face, New Zealand will play to win.” .

The football fern It has had little success in recent years. Their last 2-0 win over South Korea, Women’s Asian Cup 2022 runner-upHe finished eight consecutive matches. “It is a reward for the players, for their commitment to our principles of play and their motivation,” Klimkova continues.

The Kiwi fruit They will rely on the coach’s new tactics next week in Shepellife’s Cup. The first round will take a personal dimension to Klimkova, as New Zealand has been placed in a group that includes the Czech Republic, the United States and Iceland.

“I have many friends in the United States, and the confrontation with the Czech Republic will of course be a very special moment,” she commented. “It is my country, and it is also a team that I wore and trained in. It will be exciting to meet them in such a prestigious tournament. We are very happy to be a part of it, especially as it is a perfect test to prepare us for the World Cup.”

New Zealand matches in the Shepelevs Cup

  • United States (20 February)

  • Czech Republic (23 February)

Jitka Klimkova, New Zealand women's coach, speaks during training.

Promising future

The 2023 World Cup, jointly organized with Australia, opens up vast prospects in New Zealand, but there is a lot of pressure on the local team and its coach. Klimkova knows how important it is to make sure his charges are not affected.

“We are working hard on planning for the entire World Cup cycle, with a particular focus on putting pressure on the home team,” she explained. “We are discussing ways to use it, because pressure can be a source of strength. But we know that it can also destroy all the efforts made during preparation. We have to make sure that playing at home inspires and motivates the players.”

But the national football authorities are looking beyond 2023. Their long-term vision and commitment are reflected in the contract length of Klimkova, who is delighted with the message he sent during his six-year tenure.

“It is very important that the New Zealand Football Association think long-term,” she said. “We’re only in the beginning and I’ve only been in my position for four months, but we really want to integrate the first selection with the junior teams. Our plan goes beyond this year and into 2023.”

“Women’s football has a huge potential to grow in New Zealand and I am very happy with the opportunity. It is a huge challenge and a huge responsibility as we co-host the World Cup. But I am particularly excited by the prospects I saw in 2013 and 2014 as a women’s under-17 coach and through control fern. Back then, as now, I felt that New Zealand could achieve great things. It’s an honor to help her do that.”

Photos courtesy of PhotoSport

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