(Reuters) – New Zealand defender Nicole Stratford had a rushed introduction to the women’s World Cup having received an SOS call to join the squad in France, just two days after she returned home from holiday in Britain.
The 30-year-old was rushed into Tom Sermanni’s squad after Meikayla Moore was ruled out of the tournament after rupturing her Achilles’ tendon in their final preparations ahead of their opener against the Netherlands in Le Havre.
“It’s funny because two days prior I had just flown back from the UK,” she told New Zealand’s Stuff Media on Thursday of her call up.
“I was actually over here watching a couple of the matches and so I was jet lagged and asleep when Tom called.
“I had just gone for a couple of weeks for a holiday because my partner is British so we just timed it so we would watch a couple of matches against England and Wales.”
After realising that she would need to turn straight back around, Stratford first had to negotiate some more time off from her job as a police officer in Auckland.
“I pretty much just gave my sergeant a call as soon as I found out and I was on a plane not too much later,” she added. “It was pretty smooth sailing.”
Her dash to France led to her being on the bench for the match against the Netherlands, who won the game 1-0 with a 92nd-minute goal from Jill Roord.
“It was an unreal experience being involved and being on the bench,” she said as the team prepared for their second Group E game against Canada in Grenoble on Saturday.
“I didn’t think I would be in any position close to this even in a year’s time. You set goals for yourself but you sort of have to wait for things to fall your way a bit.
“But I’m excited for the opportunity and feel really fortunate to take it up.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)