Experience and youth characterise the men’s and women’s teams for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, confirmed on Friday by New Zealand Football and the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
The Football Ferns will rely on a core of experience, as the quartet of Abby Erceg, Ria Percival, Anna Green and Ali Riley will be playing at their fourth Olympics, while talent from the bronze medal winning U-17s in 2018 is also starting to come through in the squad via striker Gabi Rennie (yet to be capped at senior level) and goalkeeper Anna Leat.
Meanwhile, led by Burnley FC striker Chris Wood and Minnesota United centre back Michael Boxall, back for their second Olympic Games, the men’s team features a host of exciting talent, such as Liberato Cacace, Ben Waine and Joe Bell.
“Tokyo 2020 is key for reigniting our women’s and men’s high performance programmes,” New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell said.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been massive on our international activity, so we’re delighted with the opportunity to get our national teams playing again.
New Zealand will attend as OFC’s representative after the men’s team breezed through the qualifying tournament in Fiji in 2019, while the Football Ferns earned their place after winning the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in 2018.
The men’s tournament will feature U-24 players with each country allowed up to three overage players – normally the event is for U-23s but the delay due to COVID-19 has caused the change.
“For the Football Ferns, Tokyo 2020 marks the beginning of the build-up for the biggest prize of them all – hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil. A blend of experience and potential makes up the Football Ferns squad, and we are now starting to see some of our most exciting talent, already versed in succeeding at FIFA events, come through to the senior side,” Pragnell said.
“For our men’s side, Tokyo 2020 helps to re-start preparations for qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The side is an incredible group of young talent, guided by some of our most accomplished senior players, which makes for a very dynamic team playing football for New Zealand in Tokyo.”
The Football Ferns have been drawn in Group G alongside Sweden, USA and Australia. Their campaign gets underway against Australia on Wednesday, July 21.
The men are in Group B with South Korea, Honduras and Romania and New Zealand will meet Korea on Thursday, July 22 in their first fixture.
Football Ferns: CJ Bott, Katie Bowen, Claudia Bunge, Olivia Chance, Daisy Cleverley, Abby Erceg, Anna Green, Betsy Hassett, Anna Leat, Annalie Longo, Meikayla Moore, Erin Nayler, Ria Percival, Gabi Rennie, Ali Riley, Emma Rolston, Paige Satchell, Hannah Wilkinson. Coach: Tom Sermanni
Travelling reserves: Elizabeth Anton, Victoria Esson, Michaela Robertson, Marisa Van Der Meer
New Zealand men: Joe Bell, Michael Boxall, Liberato Cacace, Joey Champness, Callan Elliot, Dane Ingham, Elijah Just, Clayton Lewis, Callum McCowatt, Nando Pijnaker, Winston Reid or Tim Payne, Jamie Searle, Marko Stamenic, George Stanger, Gianni Stensness, Ben Waine, Christopher Wood, Michael Woud. Coach: Danny Hay
Travelling reserves: Matthew Garbett, Ben Old, Alex Paulsen, Sam Sutton
Courtesy of New Zealand Football and the New Zealand Olympic Committee.