AUCKLAND – The final leg of the Football Ferns’ and Thai Airways Oly-Whites’ Road to Beijing will wind its way through Australia and South-East Asia with month-long tours in July.

Building on a double-header against their Australian counterparts in Sydney on July 12, each side completes preparation for New Zealand’s first ever Olympic football appearances with games against Asian opposition before arriving in the Olympic village in late July ahead of their opening Olympic fixtures on August 6 (women) and 7 (men).

The Oly-Whites follow their Olyroos test with an even tougher examination two days later against A-League runners-up Central Coast Mariners.

They then travel to Jakarta where a clash against the Indonesian full national side is sandwiched between two matches against club opposition.

New Zealand Football is also in discussion with the Chilean Football Federation for two matches against the Chile U-23 side in Wellington in early July.

Meanwhile the Football Ferns tread a different path after their game against the Matildas, heading for an early taste of Chinese conditions with back-to-back games against the Olympic hosts, before moving to Singapore for games against Singapore and Canada.

After slowly piecing together the preparation puzzle, Oly-Whites head coach Stu Jacobs was pleased to focus on a schedule that provided plenty of opportunity to adjust to tough opposition and tough conditions.

“When you’re preparing for a tournament of this stature, teams are slow to commit themselves, and it can be tough to confirm fixtures. However, we’ve got a program modelled on teams we’ll face and gives us time in China to recover and get in time on the training pitch,” Jacobs said.

“The Australian teams will be very strong so it’s a great start for us and it keeps the relationship between the two countries going, which is important.”

“The Indonesians will be a good warm-up for our opener against China. They’ll be quite good technically and very quick. Conditions will be similar to China so it’ll give us a chance to acclimatise as well.”

Football Ferns head coach John Herdman echoed Jacobs’s sentiments about the value of acclimatisation, and about the benefits of off-shore preparation.

“It’s a great build-up and at a higher level than we had before the last World Cup. Every game will have a very clear purpose, with games against opposition of a similar ilk to our Olympic opponents,” Herdman said.

“The Aussie, China and Canada games give us further benchmarks while the match against Singapore offers the chance to practice different scenarios and ensure all our players see game time.”

At least one of the Football Ferns matches against China in Qinhuangdao will be at the same stadium as their Olympic opener against Japan, with Herdman identifying obvious benefits.

“China are a very similar team to Japan so it’s crucial we get into Asian conditions and get used to playing Asian teams.”

Final squads for both teams will be announced in early July.

Thai Airways Oly-Whites schedule

July 12 v Australia – North Sydney Oval

July 15 v Central Coast Mariners – Knox Grammar School, Wahroonga

July 20 v PSMS Medan – Jakarta

July 24 v Indonesia – Jakarta

July 26 v Persija – Jakarta

XXIX Olympiad

August 7: New Zealand v China PR – Shengyang

August 10: New Zealand v Brazil – Shengyang

August 13: New Zealand v Belgium – Shanghai

Football Ferns Schedule

July 12 v Australia – North Sydney Oval

July 16 v China – Qinhuangdao

July 20 v China – Qinhuangdao

July 23 v Singapore – Singapore

July 25 v Canada – Singapore

XXIX Olympiad

August 6: New Zealand v Japan – Qinhuangdao

August 9: New Zealand v Norway – Qinhuangdao

August 12: New Zealand v USA – Shengyang

Story provided by NZF Media. For more information visit www.nzsoccer.com

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