Football: Fern passes on wealth of international experience

Football Fern Annalie Longo (second left) coaches St Hilda's pupils (from left) Holly Smaill,...
Football Fern Annalie Longo (second left) coaches St Hilda's pupils (from left) Holly Smaill, Chelsea Whittaker and Shontelle Smith at the school gymnasium yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Football Ferns centre midfielder Annalie Longo was the youngest player to represent New Zealand when she got her first international cap as a 15-year-old, six years ago.

Longo was a member of the Football Ferns team that finished eighth at the Olympic Games in London, beaten 2-0 by gold medallist the United States in the quarterfinals.

Longo (21) has represented New Zealand at six international Fifa tournaments but this was her first Olympics.

"It was an amazing experience," she told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

"It was nice to represent New Zealand and meet so many inspiring and amazing people."

Since returning home she has been able to reflect on how far New Zealand women's football has developed since she first played international football six years ago.

But she recognises that New Zealand football still has some way to go before it can be a contender for a podium spot at the Olympics.

"We reached the quarterfinals and were the first New Zealand team to advance past group play," she said.

"That was great for us but we are looking to go further at Rio de Janeiro in four years' time."

There were no easy games at the Olympics.

"It was high-quality opposition and every game was tough at London," Longo said.

"The toughest games were against the United States and Brazil."

The Aucklander enters a new phase in her football career next month when she joins the professional ranks with the Sydney Football Club that plays in the Australian women's league.

At only 1.56m, Longo is one of the shortest players in the Football Ferns.

She was dwarfed by the St Hilda's Collegiate team she coached in the school gymnasium yesterday.

Longo taught dribbling and kicking skills to the schoolgirls and had them mastering the Cruyff turn (the player turns 180 degrees) by the end of the session.

It was invented by Johan Cruyff, who played international football for the Netherlands from 1966-77 and played senior football from 1964-84. He was named the European Player of the 20th Century.

The St Hilda's 1st XI finished third at the national secondary schools tournament at Taupo earlier this month.

Its only loss was in the semifinal, when it was beaten in a penalty shoot out by Tauranga Girls' High School. It was the best performance by a girls football team from Otago and Southland for 20 years.

The standout players for St Hilda's at the tournament were Shontelle Smith, Emma Paisley, Kelsey Kennard and Danya McFadyen.

Longo is giving inspiration to eight schoolgirl teams during a short visit to Dunedin and will be encouraging players at the "Girls Have A Go" coaching session at the Oval at 4pm tomorrow.

 

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