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Denmark In Turkey
Turkey In January? It Must Be Danish!
by Jeremy Ruane

A late equaliser from Denmark's Sanne Troelsgaard denied the Football Ferns a first-up victory in 2015 at the Spice Hotel Football Ground in Belek, Turkey, on January 12, as the Scandinavian side held the FIFA Women's World Cup Finals-bound Kiwis to a 1-1 draw in extremely inclement conditions.

Tony Readings' charges hit the ground running in their first match of the year, making light of the wind and rain to force Danish 'keeper Stina Petersen into producing a string of fine saves to keep the rampant Football Ferns at bay.

They eventually secured a deserved breakthrough, however, Annalie Longo's fine chipped effort seven minutes before half-time the perfect reward for a fine move in which the Football Ferns strung passes together like they were going out of fashion.

Indeed, the much-travelled Kiwis deserved far more from the game, such was the all-round quality of their performance, but their inability to build on Longo's strike came back to haunt them late in the piece.

After Troelsgaard had seen an effort cleared off the line, and Pernille Harder had brought the best out of Erin Nayler, Rebekah Stott's headed clearance landed at the feet of debutant Stine Larsen some thirty yards from goal.

Her resulting shot ricocheted into the stride of Troelsgaard, who lifted the ball over the advancing figure of Nayler to level the scores with time all but up on the clock, much to the frustration of the Football Ferns.

The Danes' delight was undisguised, on a day long-serving striker Johanna Rasmussen made her 125th appearance for her country, becoming the most capped active international in Danish football in the process.

She still has some way to go to reach the tally of caps earned by Katrine S. Pedersen, who clocked up 210 appearances for her country over two decades, including in two of the three previous meetings between these teams, all of which Denmark won.

As well as earning their first-ever favourable result against the Danes, the Football Ferns also had a milestone maker in their ranks, with Amber Hearn becoming the fifth player to make a century of appearances in all matches for the team on a day the first player to do so, Hayley Bowden, marked her long-awaited return to the world stage nearly two years after last gracing the national team.

Katie Bowen returned to action for the first time since the 2014 Cyprus Women's Cup, and will be hoping she's done enough to earn selection again when the teams square off again on Thursday at the same venue, at 9pm NZ time.

Denmark:     Petersen; Hansen (Larsen, 64), Nielsen (Gewitz, 84), N. Pedersen (Karstoft, 84), Jensen; Troelsgaard (booked, 85), S. Pedersen, Larsen, Veje (Petersson, 74); Rasmussen (Thogersen, 57), Harder
F'ball Ferns:     Nayler; Percival, Stott, Erceg, Riley; Bowen (Hassett, 46), Hoyle (Yallop, 61), Hearn, Longo (Bowden, 89); Wilkinson (Collins, 69), White (Gregorius, 62)
Referee:     Dilan Deniz Gokcek Iskan (Turkey)
New Zealand's Football Ferns added another European scalp to their growing collection of famous footballing nations they have conquered in recent times on 15 January, as they came from behind to down Denmark 3-2 at the Spice Hotel Football Ground in Belek, Turkey.

Trailing to a sixth minute free-kick from Simone Boje Sorensen, Tony Readings' charges responded in ideal fashion, 99-times-capped Ria Percival levelling the scores direct from a corner just three minutes later.

The early goals set the tone for a lively affair laden with chances at both ends. And it was the Football Ferns who made the next one count, Sarah Gregorius supplying the pass which Hannah Wilkinson rammed home half-way through the first half to give the FIFA Women's World Cup finalists a 2-1 lead.

They looked set to retain that advantage going into half-time, but in the dying seconds of the half Denmark drew level through Sofie Junge Pedersen, a leveller which prompted Readings to introduce Danish-based defender Rebekah Stott for the second spell, in place of Meikayla Moore.

Betsy Hassett, who, along with Moore, was among the four changes made to the starting line-up following Monday's 1-1 draw between the teams, was also benched for the second half, and it was her replacement who restored the Football Ferns' lead just prior to the hour mark.

In the previous encounter, Annalie Longo had been moments away from being New Zealand's match-winner. This time, she was, latching onto Amber Hearn's through ball to give the Kiwis a 3-2 advantage which they retained until the final whistle.

Try as they might, the Danes couldn't peg back the black-clad Football Ferns on this occasion, leaving the eighteenth-ranked side to celebrate a famous first-ever victory over their sixteenth-ranked rivals in the Turkish sunshine and afford themselves the ideal start to a year in which their sights are set on staying in Canada for the duration of the FIFA Women's World Cup Finals.

The Football Ferns, who take on Holland, China and the host nation in their group in Canada, have plenty of action scheduled prior to the Finals. They are eagerly awaiting the draw for the Cyprus Cup, which takes place early in March, while news of further international fixtures in the week commencing 7 February is imminent.

Denmark:     Petersen (Abel, 46); Hansen, Gewitz (Karstoft, 46), Sorensen (S. Larsen, 73), Sandvej; Petersson (Troelsgaard, 61), S. Pedersen, C. Larsen (Munk, 46), Veje (Rasmussen, 46); Thogersen, Harder
F'ball Ferns:     Nayler; Percival, Moore (Stott, 46), Erceg, Riley; Hassett (Longo, 46), Hoyle (Bowden, 73), Hearn, Yallop (Bowen, 56 (booked, 57)); Wilkinson (White, 76), Gregorius (Collins, 60)
Referee:     Dilan Deniz Gokcek Iscan (Turkey)

Road To Canada & Rio