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Hawke’s Bay U17 Football Coach Helps Make History

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Hawke’s Bay coach Leon Birnie and his girls have added another fairytale chapter to New Zealand football history after booking a place in the semifinal of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay.

“All along we have said to the players ‘Dare to dream’ and we continue to do just that,” said Birnie from Montevideo after the Kiwi teenagers upset favourites and former age-group champions Japan 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the sides were locked 1-1 in regulation time of their quarterfinal match.

The 36-year-old Central Football administrator from Napier went to bed well after midnight after receiving a flood of congratulatory messages from fans throughout New Zealand and abroad following their memorable achievements at the Estadio Alberto Suppici where the Japan players shed tears of despair.

The favourites had failed to break down a resolute defence of the underdogs despite an own goal from Hannah Mackay-Wright who had blocked the shot on the line but, inadvertently, turned in the confusion to see where it was and, in the process, stabbed the ball into the net.

Photo: New Zealand players pile up on goalkeeper Anna Leat after she scores the final penalty during the penalty shootout. Photo/AP

For morCapturee on this and other great Hawke’s Bay stories go to

Posted: 26 November 2018

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