Football Ferns coach Tony Readings has named a strong New Zealand A side for two international friendlies against Thailand this month in Auckland.
The first international will be staged at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on December 17, before the Wellington Phoenix play the Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League, and the second game will be three days later on December 20 at Fred Taylor Park in Whenuapai.
“It is a perfect opportunity for us,” Readings said.
“We have got to be planning for 2019 [FIFA World Cup] and 2020 [Tokyo Olympics] that is what is on the horizon for us in the next three or four years. We are going to be looking at players over the next three to four years who we think will help us be successful at those events. Some of them will be players who are currently in the squad and others will come from the age-group players who want to push the senior players out and press for places. We are always looking for the players with the most potential.”
Three players – captain Abby Erceg, Anna Green and Rosie White – will come home from their overseas clubs and will be joined by regular Ferns in Annalie Longo, Meikayla Moore, CJ Bott, Jasmine Pereira, Paige Satchell and Victoria Esson.
Erceg, who has played 130 internationals for the Football Ferns, will be playing for New Zealand for the first time since she captained the Western New York Flash to the National Women’s Soccer League title in October. Readings said Erceg, White and Green will play an important role in this squad.
“They are all looking forward to playing at home, it is special anytime they put on the New Zealand shirt. Those three are going to be real leaders in this group and they are going to get a chance to perform themselves but also bring this next group through as well. 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.”
Readings expected a tough challenge from the Spencer Prior-managed Thailand team. The Football Ferns have watched a lot of footage recently of Thailand and have been impressed.
“Technically they are very good and they have a good coach who we know pretty well. We know they are going to be well organised. It is going to be a great challenge. This would have been a great challenge for our full senior team so it is going to be an even greater challenge for this squad which has a mixture of players in terms of experience and ages.”
Readings said it was a good chance for the Football Ferns coaching team to have a better look at some of the players from the U-17s and U-20s squads who come in off the back of their respective FIFA World Cup Campaigns.
“We will get to see what players can do. We are hoping to have some things confirmed about players but we are also hoping for a few surprises as well. We want people to put their hands up and show they want to be part of the Football Ferns for the next four years.”
Daisy Cleverley, who was a travelling reserve for the Football Ferns at the Rio Olympics, and NZ U-20 representative Grace Jale were both unavailable for selection.
The Football Ferns have played Thailand twice in their history and won on both occasions. They defeated them 3-1 in the Asian Cup in 1975 and 9-0 in the World Invitational in 1981, but these two games will be a significant test for this young New Zealand A side.
New Zealand A v Thailand
When: Saturday December 17 4:30pm
Where: Mt Smart Stadium
Ahead of the Wellington Phoenix vs Western Sydney Wanderers in the A League
When: Tuesday December 20, 5pm
Where: Fred Taylor Park, Whenuapai
New Zealand A:
Victoria Esson (GK)
Anna Leat (GK)
Tessa Nicol (GK)
Abby Erceg (C)
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football