Photo Credit: FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

New Zealand head to Samoa this weekend as strong favourites to win the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament-Oceania Qualifier.

The Football Ferns have represented Oceania four times at the Olympics since first qualifying in 2008, and had their best result in 2012 (London) when they reached the quarter-finals.

Coach Jitka Klimkova has selected a powerful squad , which includes two uncapped players in Macey Fraser and Brianna Edwards from the Wellington Phoenix.

Klimkova is aware the hot humid conditions in Apia will present unique challenges for her side.

“We have focused a lot on our recovery and how important it’s going to be to really have a proper time when our body is going to get ready for another game in front of us. So all those factors about the conditions in Samoa we considered and we are prepared for it,” Klimkova said.

Despite six notable absences in the squad due to injuries, the Football Ferns still have a plethora of international experience to call on.

Photo Credit: FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

That experience is seen as crucial against Pacific nations who are investing more resources into Women’s Football, inspired by the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ which was co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia last year.

“They are evolving, they are improving and we are going to face teams that want to do the same like us, they want to qualify to the Olympics. We will be ready, we will be prepared and we will be playing for the win and performing our best way,” Klimkova added.

“We know we need to keep the ball and we need to keep the ball moving very quickly. There is not going to be much time for us to hold the ball. So that’s the way how we actually want to play our football.”

After managing just two wins from 16 games and scoring only five goals in 2023. The Football Ferns will be aiming to improve on that statistic this year, starting in Samoa.

“We want to spend a lot of time in front of our goal and be more sophisticated with our decisions. So we will be focusing on our crossing, on our finishing, on our runs in the box, little deception in the box and composed finishing.”

Someone who might be able to help out is Wellington Phoenix star Fraser, who has thrived in the Australian A-League in 2024, scoring two goals and adding two assists.

The attacking minded midfielder is someone that Jitka Klimkova looks forward to unleashing in Apia.

“I am very excited to see Macy Fraser who is coming for first time to our environment and seeing her how she plays with her club with Phoenix, I’m very keen to see how she’s going to handle the different speed of play and the international level of football.”

New Zealand play Tonga, Vanuatu and hosts Samoa in Group B with the winner and runner-up advancing to the semi-finals.

The full squad is as follows:

Liz Anton
Mackenzie Barry
Katie Bowen
Claudia Bunge
Daisy Cleverley
Ava Collins
Brianna Edwards
Victoria Esson
Michaela Foster
Macey Fraser
Ally Green
Jacqui Hand
Betsy Hassett
Grace Jale
Katie Kitching
Anna Leat
Annalie Longo
Ruby Nathan
Grace Neville
Gabi Rennie
Indiah-Paige Riley
Rebekah Stott
Kate Taylor
Hannah Wilkinson