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Football Ferns to face old foes

The Football Ferns will first face the Matildas on 4 June in Ballarat, before the two sides meet again to play the curtain-raiser to the Socceroos’ clash with Greece at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on 7 June.
Ranked 16th in the world, the Kiwis will relish the challenge against the fifth-ranked Matildas, who have reached the quarterfinals at the last three FIFA Women’s World Cups.
New Zealand coach Tony Readings says the matches will provide an ideal preparation for the Kiwi women ahead of their 12-team Olympic football tournament which will get underway on 5 August.
“Just five weeks out from when we depart for the Olympics, the games are good timing for us and will give us a good benchmark of where we’re at against one of the top teams in the world.
“There’s a lot riding on this, both individually and as a team,” Readings says.
“It will help toughen us up and get more tactically organised but will also help us decide which players we are going to take to the Olympics.”
The Australians have an impressive head-to-head record against New Zealand with 30 wins from their 47 previous matches.
Readings says his side would like to improve on those statistics against their traditional rivals.
“We want to get into the habit of winning and to win any game is always great.
“But to win against Australia would mean that little bit extra for us,” he says.
“We’ve come close to beating them a few times but they’re a very good team.
“They’ve just won the Asian qualifiers for the Olympics and have moved up to fifth in the world.”
Despite the Matildas will go into the matches as favourites, Australian coach Alen Stajcic insists his side will not underestimate the Kiwis.
“These are a crucial games for us against a high quality New Zealand team that will also be fully focused on their preparations for Rio.”
Stajcic says most overseas-based players will return for the two games against New Zealand.
The squad will also spend five days in a training camp before the Ballarat game.
“It will be one of the only chances we have to get most of the overseas players back here and together before the Rio Games so it will be a really important game for us,” the Australian coach says.
New Zealand will face reigning world champions United States, third-ranked France and 24th-ranked Colombia during their group stages in Rio.

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