Football Fern Annalie Longo longing for another World Cup on New Zealand soil


Annalie Longo celebrates after scoring New Zealand's first goal at the Under-17 Women's World Cup in 2008.

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Annalie Longo celebrates after scoring New Zealand’s first goal at the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008.

Annalie Longo has already felt the rush of scoring a World Cup goal in front of her country once before.

She would love to experience it again in 2023, with New Zealand and Australia’s joint bid to host the next Women’s World Cup firming as the strong favourite.

“As a little kid you dream of playing at a World Cup, to have that possibility of it being in your own country is even more exciting,” Longo said.

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NZ’s co-hosting bid with Australia appears to be in the box seat, but NZF President Johanna Wood remains wary of Colombia.

“Fingers crossed because it’ll be such an amazing opportunity for New Zealand and Australia if we can inspire and leave the legacy that the under-17s created. It would be an amazing event for us to host.”

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The vastly-experienced Football Fern had the honour of scoring the country’s first-ever goal when the inaugural Under-17 Women’s World Cup was held in New Zealand in 2008.

One of just two New Zealand players to hit the back of the net at the tournament, Longo sparked wild celebrations when she struck in the 13th minute of the team’s second match against Denmark.

Although she still cringes looking back at photographs from the match, Longo was stoked she managed to score on such a big stage, with friends and family among the 11,170-strong crowd that packed into North Harbour Stadium.

Football Ferns midfielder Annalie Longo has played at four senior Women's World Cup tournaments.

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Football Ferns midfielder Annalie Longo has played at four senior Women’s World Cup tournaments.

“When you look at the photos it kind of sums up the emotion,” she said.

“You work so hard for those moments and you want to be able to score. It was our first goal for New Zealand so you can see the emotion on my face and it’s one of those unreal feelings. Everyone hopes to score at a World Cup but to do it in New Zealand is pretty special.

“Some of the girls had never played in big stadiums before so it was an amazing experience as 16-17 year-olds, and from there you’ve seen a number of those girls come through the ranks and play for the Ferns, and that’s what you want.

“You want girls playing professionally and going overseas, and 2008 really sparked that. You had quality players like Rosie White in the squad and they’ve come so far and are now playing overseas. I think it was a huge step forward for New Zealand Football.”

Annalie Longo of Melbourne Victory is challenged by Sydney's Sofia Huerta during last season's W-League semifinal.

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Annalie Longo of Melbourne Victory is challenged by Sydney’s Sofia Huerta during last season’s W-League semifinal.

Longo is another one of the success stories from the class of 2008. The Melbourne Victory midfielder has been a regular fixture in the Football Ferns since making her international debut against China when she was just 15 years-old.

Having already attended four senior World Cup tournaments in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019, she said it would be a massive boon for the women’s game in New Zealand if the trans-Tasman bid is successful.

Last year’s event attracted a global audience of more than 1 billion people, trumping the viewership of the men’s Rugby World Cup by close to 150 million.

“It’s hard for Kiwis to be able to see the Football Ferns actually play because often we play overseas and time zones and things make it hard, especially with players playing professionally now means they’re no longer playing on New Zealand soil.

“To have something like this back in our country would give huge exposure for people to see the Ferns playing, to see the development that has occurred, and I think it’s just exciting. Hopefully we can inspire the next boy or girl to play football and the World Cup will do that.

“Often girls don’t have the opportunity to see females playing any sport but football in particular, so have the opportunity for girls and boys to come down and see a live football game, and the fact it’s a Women’s World Cup, is huge.”

New Zealand and Australia will find out in the early hours of Friday morning whether their joint bid to host the 2023 World Cup is successful. The only other country left in the running is Colombia after Japan, the next strongest challenger, withdrew from contention.