To kickstart preparations for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2022™, a two-game series with Australia’s U-20s has been confirmed for the Junior Football Ferns on April 6 and 10 in Canberra.

The series is hugely important for World Cup preparations, says New Zealand U-20s head coach Gemma Lewis.

“Due to COVID-19 we’ve been unable to play since the World Cup qualifiers in 2019, and this will also be the first time this group have played teams against non-OFC opposition,” she says.

“It’s important to get that range of opposition ahead of the World Cup in August. Australia, having come through the tough AFC qualifiers and recently being confirmed to go to the World Cup themselves, will certainly be approaching this series as key to kickstarting their own preparations.”

In November 2020 FIFA confirmed that both the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, initially postponed from 2020 to 2021, would be cancelled due to the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic around preparation time for age group teams, as well as for finalising qualification tournaments. The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup will take place in Costa Rica from August 10-28.

“It’s been a tough cycle with there being no World Cups for the U-17s or the U-20s over the last few years,” says Lewis.

Lewis has named a 23-player squad for the series, with a heavy A-League Women’s influence. It includes a seven player Wellington Phoenix contingent in Alyssa Whinham, Ava Pritchard, Brianna Edwards, Charlotte Lancaster, Kate Taylor, Te Reremoana Walker and Zoe McMeeken, who were all part of the club’s inaugural A-League Women’s campaign, as well as Melbourne City’s Marisa van der Meer, who was also part of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 squad.

“We’ve got a good mix in the group,” says Lewis, also Wellington Phoenix’s inaugural head coach.

“There’s a large contingent who have now had a season playing professionally, some are coming in from college in the USA, while others have been in FFDP full time.

“With the World Cup being a few months away now, this tour is particularly important in terms of getting a better understanding of the playing group. It’s an opportunity for us as coaching staff to see more of some players, narrow down the squad, as well as engraining our playing model and identity with the group,” she says.

The 23-player squad for the two-game series against Australia is: (player; club/university)

Alyssa Whinham; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ

Aniela Jensen; University of the Pacific, USA

Ava Pritchard; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ

Brianna Edwards; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ

Charlotte Lancaster; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ

Charlotte Wilford-Carroll; Eastern Suburbs AFC, NZ

Chloe Bellamy; West Coast Rangers FC, NZ

Emma Pijnenburg; Western Springs AFC, NZ

Jana Niedermayr; Eastern Suburbs AFC, NZ

Jemma Catherwood; Wellington United AFC, NZ

Kate Duncan; Auckland United FC, NZ

Kate Taylor; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ

Kitty Jacob; Western Springs AFC, NZ

Macey Fraser; Wellington Phoenix Academy, NZ

Marisa van der Meer; Melbourne City FC, NZ

Milly Clegg; Auckland United FC, NZ

Murphy Sheaff; Jacksonville University, USA

Olivia Ingham; Wellington Phoenix Academy, NZ

Rene Wasi; Unattached

Rylee Godbold; Hamilton Wanderers AFC, NZ

Te Reremoana Walker; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ

Tui Dugan; Arizona State University, USA

Zoe McMeeken; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ

Match details vs Australia U-20s

Game 1
Wednesday, April 6 2022
Venue: Deakin Stadium, Canberra
Kick Off: 6.30pm AEDT/8.30pm NZT

Game 2
Sunday, April 10 2022
Venue: Viking Stadium, Canberra
Kick Off: 2pm AEDT/4.00pm NZT