The Football Ferns will come up against one of the best sides in the world when they play an international friendly against Japan in Wellington in June.
The World No 20 Ferns will play the World No 11 at Westpac Stadium as part of their preparations for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in New Caledonia this November.
Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf says taking on the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions and 2015 runners-up will be a great test for his side.
“Japan are a world-class team and a great opponent for us to face at this stage of our World Cup cycle,” Heraf says.
“We will be looking for a strong performance after our games against Scotland in March but we know it will not be easy as they are a world-class team. They have a lot of top quality players and good experience throughout their squad,” he adds.
“We look forward to the test and believe this will be the ideal preparation, should we qualify, for the World Cup in France next year. If we want to progress to the Round of 16 then we need to be able to compete with teams of this quality.”
New Zealand Football Chief Executive Andy Martin is encouraging the public to get behind the Football Ferns in their build-up to FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying.
“This is the first senior international held in New Zealand since the All Whites were in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup against Peru last November,” Martin says.
“Football is a truly global sport and we want to see huge support for our team who are ranked 20th out of the 177 teams in the world. It is a great chance to get behind the Football Ferns against world-class opposition. It was a special atmosphere last November for the All Whites and it would be great to see the football fans in New Zealand come out in numbers to support the Ferns.”
It will be the first time the Ferns have played at home since they took on Australia in Auckland in 2015 and their last appearance in Wellington was in 1991.
Japan boast an impressive record in recent times. They reached their highest ever world ranking of third on the back of their World Cup success in 2011 in Germany. Back then, Japan beat the USA on penalties in the final after a 2-2 draw, becoming the first Asian team to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup and a senior FIFA title.
This year, they finished sixth at the Algarve Cup and won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup title for the second time in their history last month. They have already qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year.
New Zealand and Japan have met eight times throughout their history with the Nadeshiko winning six of those games and the other two ending in draws, in 2008 and 2013. It will be the first time the two teams have played each other since Japan won 1-0 in Kagawa in 2015.
Football Ferns v Japan International Friendly
Sunday 10 June, kick-off 3pm
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Live on SKY Sport