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Football Ferns aim for Cyprus Cup progression

Having climbed to 16th in the world in 2013, the New Zealand side will meet Ireland (33rd), Switzerland (22nd) and South Korea (17th) in Group B of the 12-team tournament which also includes six nations ranked above the Football Ferns including the likes of France (5th) Canada (7th) and Australia (9th).
Fresh from earning a place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup last week with the Junior Football Ferns, goalkeeper Lily Alfeld – captain of the U-20 side – gets an opportunity with the senior team for the first time with Rebecca Rolls unavailable due to work commitments.
Alfeld joins fellow U-20 squad members Stephanie Skilton, Evie Millynn and CJ Bott as players in the senior mix who are yet to feature at full international level.
With Megan Lee, Katie Bowen and Meikayla Moore also included from the Junior Football Ferns, the senior group has been infused by youth with several players sidelined including fullback Ali Riley.
After an excellent 2013 year which saw New Zealand beaten just three times in 11 matches, the Football Ferns will be pushing hard to improve on their top three finish at last year’s Cyprus Cup tournament.
With wins over Scotland and Italy, the Football Ferns secured third place last year with a 2-1 play-off victory over Switzerland; whom the New Zealanders will meet in the second match of this year’s event.
Tony Readings’ side head to Cyprus after opening their 2014 campaign with three narrow defeats at the Women’s Invitational Tournament in China in February.
But Readings says if you look a little deeper than the results in that event, you’ll see good signs for next week and beyond.
“China was good preparation for Cyprus, which is always an important tournament for us,” Readings said.
“Before China we hadn’t played in three months so it gave the players another chance to work together after a break.
“The team stepped forward in the areas we want to progress and we’ve got four more games to take four more steps in Cyprus.”
“We’re beginning to build a solid foundation in possession and we know it’s going to be difficult when teams have numbers behind the ball.
“So our core focus is working on developing the patience and composure in possession the closer we get to the opposition goal and retaining the ability to be positive at the right moments.”
Readings says while the development of the side’s work in possession is often mentioned, he is also seeing big strides in their abilities to combat their opposition when the ball is not at their feet.
“Our individual and team defending is getting better and better and that comes down to the players’ hunger not to concede.
“When you play against the best in the world, most of those teams have players who can hurt you in 1v1 situations so our defending in those moments is something we’ve worked on.”
The Football Ferns’ first game of the Cyprus Cup tournament is on Thursday 6 March (NZ time) against Ireland.
Football Ferns squad – Cyprus Cup 2014
March 5-13, 2014
1. Erin Nayler (10/0, Eastern Suburbs AFC)
23. Lily Alfeld (0/0, Coastal Spirit FC)
3. Catherine Bott (0/0, Waterside Karori AFC, NZ)
18. Katie Bowen (14/0, University of North Carolina, USA)
5. Abby Erceg (capt, 92/4, USV Jena, GER)
26. Megan Lee (3/0, Louisiana State University, USA)
15. Meikayla Moore (2/0, Coastal Spirit FC)
2. Ria Percival (88/8, USV Jena, GER)
6. Rebekah Stott (18/0, SC Sand, GER)
12. Betsy Hassett (58/6, Manchester City FC, ENG)
4. Katie Hoyle (82/1, Notts County Ladies FC, ENG)
16. Annalie Longo (58/1, Three Kings Utd, NZ)
19. Evie Millynn (0/0, San Diego State University, USA)
11. Kirsty Yallop (74/11, Vittsjo, SWE)
20. Helen Collins (13/0, Claudelands Rovers, NZ)
10. Sarah Gregorius (48/17, unattached)
9. Amber Hearn (79/36, USV Jena, GER)
25. Stephanie Skilton (0/0, Syracuse University, USA)
13. Rosie White (53/10, University of California, USA)
17. Hannah Wilkinson (51/17, University of Tennessee, USA)
Management Staff
Coach: Tony Readings
Assistant coach: Aaron McFarland
Goalkeeper coach: Nigel Piper
Match schedule
New Zealand v Republic of Ireland
Wednesday 5 March, 2.30pm (NZ time Thursday 6 March, 1.30am)
Tasos Marko, Paralimni
New Zealand v Switzerland
Friday 7 March, 5.30pm (NZ time Saturday 8 March, 4.30am)
Tasos Marko, Paralimni
New Zealand v South Korea
Monday 10 March, 5.30pm (NZ time Tuesday 11 March, 4.30am)
Tasos Marko, Paralimni
Playoff match TBC
Wednesday 12 March (NZ time Thursday 13 March)
For more on New Zealand football go to www.nzfootball.co.nz

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