Football Ferns skipper Abby Erceg is looking forward to leading a young New Zealand A team against Thailand in two international friendlies beginning this week.
The Western New York Flash captain is back home for the first time in 12 months and happy to reunite with some of her Ferns team-mates for the first time since the Rio Olympic Games.
Erceg, who has played 130 internationals for New Zealand since making her debut back in 2006, is joined by other overseas based players Anna Green and Rosie White in a New Zealand A team that is a mixture of youth and experience as the team looks to begin building for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France.
“I really wanted to get back and show face at home,” Erceg said.
“We don’t get too many games at home so it was a good opportunity to get home and also for the country to see what we have been doing for the past four years.”
The New Zealand A team have completed two trainings already this week in Auckland and Erceg was excited to see the next generation of Ferns coming through. This tour is a chance for the team to reassess their goals and will allow U-17 and U-20 players to press for places in the senior team.
“If we can get that next generation coming through that will be really positive for us and playing Thailand on the back of the Olympics is a good way to see where we are at,” she said.
New Zealand Football Ferns coach Tony Readings was glad to have Erceg home, noticing the difference she has made to training sessions.
“We saw today that Abby helps lifts the standards of the whole group,” he said.
“She is a real professional and her high standards lift the intensity of the whole group. We have a young squad but those three – Abby, Anna and Rosie – are going to be leaders in this group.
“For the Football Ferns to be successful we need a greater depth of quality players to choose from and they need to show them leadership.”
Erceg said while Thailand will not present the same challenge as the leading teams from Asia like Japan or China, the World No 32 are very strong technically and not to be underestimated.
“If we give them enough time to show us what they have got I think they will hurt us. Going into these games we have to take them seriously,” she said.
“We have to learn how to win games against teams like Thailand because it will help us at World Cups and Olympics. I expect they will come out firing. They have a new coach and are developing as well so we need to be on our game.”
Thailand will begin their tour of New Zealand tomorrow night with a match against a New Zealand Development team on Field No 3 at QBE Stadium, Auckland.
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football