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United States football star Crystal Dunn comes full circle in returning to New Zealand

In coming back to New Zealand, Crystal Dunn has come full circle.

The American women’s football star first visited these shores in 2008, to play for the United States in the inaugural Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup.

That tournament culminated in a final between the US and North Korea, played in front of a crowd of 16,162 at North Harbor Stadium.

But despite going ahead in the second minute of the decider, it was the Americans who finished runners-up, with North Korea scoring a winner late in extra time.

Dunn was back at North Harbor Stadium for the first time since then this week, training with the senior US team, who will play their group stage matches in New Zealand during the Fifa Women’s World Cup later this year.

First they’re here this month for a training camp and a pair of friendlies against the Football Ferns, next Wednesday at Sky Stadium in Wellington and next Saturday at Eden Park in Auckland.

Reflecting on her last visit 15 years ago, Dunn said: “I have such amazing memories”.

United States footballer Crystal Dunn poses with 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup mascot Tazuni.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

United States footballer Crystal Dunn poses with 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup mascot Tazuni.

“When I was competing in the 2008 U-17 World Cup, at that time I was so young and I was just filled with joy of representing the national team.

“I find myself having those same moments now, being here and knowing the World’s Cup is going to be here as well.”

The 2008 final remains the best-attended women’s football match in New Zealand history, although it is no longer the best-attended women’s sports eventwith the Black Ferns’ matches at last year’s Rugby World Cup knocking it down to sixth place.

Three other matches from the under-17 World Cup are on the list before the Football Ferns’ crowd record, set at their last match at Sky Stadium in 2018, when 7,236 people watched them lose 3-1 to Japan.

That mark could be eclipsed as soon as next week, but should definitely fall when the World Cup begins on July 20, with the Ferns hosting Norway at Eden Park in the first of 29 matches on New Zealand soil.

Dunn said she was looking forward to that record being broken, although she added that she had enjoyed having “an amazing amount of fans” in the stands in 2008.

“I think it’s incredible to know that I was kind of a part of that history, but obviously the women’s game has grown so much since that moment.

“I look forward to that record being broken and the [World Cup] being brought here is going to be an awesome experience.”

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