Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf is excited to build on what the team achieved on the Thailand tour last year when they take on Scotland in two international friendlies in Spain next month.
Head coach Heraf and assistant coach Gareth Turnbull, who named an experienced 21-woman strong squad today, will use this tour to build on their good start of their time in charge in November. New Zealand defeated Thailand 5-0 in their second international in Bangkok. It was the biggest win by New Zealand against opposition from outside of Oceania since 1993.
The World No 19 will take on the Scottish women, ranked No 23 in the world, on Saturday 3 March and Tuesday 6 March at the Pinatar Football Arena in San Pedro del Pinatar in Spain.
“It is an exciting squad,” said Heraf. “We have a good balance of experience and players who are at the start of their international careers and will bring a lot of enthusiasm to the group. There is everything to play for with the players fighting for places in the squad to compete at next year’s FIFA World Cup in France.”
Two of New Zealand’s most experienced players return to the squad. Former captain Abby Erceg, who has played 131 A Internationals for New Zealand, and experienced forward Sarah Gregorius come out of international retirement to join Heraf’s first tour as coach of the Ferns.
Heraf, the Technical Director at New Zealand Football, said the return of the experience of Erceg and Gregorius is a huge lift for the Ferns as they continue to build for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France.
“We are not a big football country so to welcome back Abby and Sarah who have played more than 200 A Internationals between them and many World Cups and Olympics is a great result for our team moving forward,” said Heraf.
“This is an important tour as we look to build on what we achieved in Thailand and prepare for FIFA World Cup qualifying in November. We know that we are much stronger team with those two players involved and that we need to continue improving as a football team.”
Erceg, the first player from New Zealand to reach 100 international caps, has been to three Olympic Games and three FIFA World Cups. Gregorius has been to two Olympics and two FIFA World Cups and has played 82 A internationals and scored 25 goals for her country.
The return of centre-half Erceg means the Ferns will have six players in this squad who have played more than 100 games for New Zealand.
At the other end of the experience scale, Emma Rolston comes in for her first Football Ferns tour while other recently-capped players like Victoria Esson, Anna Leat, Malia Steinmetz, Katie Rood and Stephanie Skilton, who made their international debuts in 2017, are retained.
Forward Rosie White (foot), midfielder Daisy Cleverley (knee) and winger Paige Satchell (knee) were ruled out through injury.
New Zealand last faced Scotland in March last year in the Cyprus Cup where they went down 3-2 with Amber Hearn and White on the scoresheet for the Ferns.
Victoria Esson (North Shore United) 1, 0
Anna Leat (Glenfield Rovers) 3, 0
Erin Nayler (Girondins Bordeaux, France) 51, 0
CJ Bott (USV Jena, Germany) 8, 0
Abby Erceg (North Carolina Courage, USA) 131, 6
Anna Green (Reading, England) 65, 7
Meikayla Moore (FC Koln, Germany) 24, 0
Ali Riley (C) (FC Rosengard, Sweden) 113, 1
Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City, Australia) 61, 4
Katie Bowen (Unattached) 49, 2
Olivia Chance (Everton, England) 8, 0
Betsy Hassett (KR Reykjavik, Iceland) 102, 8
Annalie Longo (Cashmere Technical) 103, 10
Ria Percival (FC Basel, Switzerland) 128, 13
Emma Rolston (Sydney FC, Australia) 0, 0
Malia Steinmetz (Forrest Hill Milford United) 1, 0
Sarah Gregorius (Upper Hutt City FC) 82, 25
Amber Hearn (FC Koln, Germany) 122, 54
Katie Rood (Juventus, Italy) 2, 0
Stephanie Skilton (Glenfield Rovers) 3, 0
Hannah Wilkinson (Vittsjo GIK, Sweden) 85, 25
Coach: Andreas Heraf
Football Ferns v Scotland international friendlies
Saturday 3 March local kick off 5pm (NZT Sunday 4 March 5am)
Tuesday 6 March local kick off 11.00am (NZT Tuesday 6 March 11:00pm)
Pinatar Football Arena in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain