Football Ferns coach Tony Readings has named an exciting squad to contest the Cyprus Cup in March as the team rebuilds towards the 2019 FIFA World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Readings has named a team with plenty of experience – five players have more than 100 internationals for New Zealand in captain Abby Erceg, Amber Hearn, Ria Percival, Ali Riley and Kirsty Yallop – alongside three exciting young players who are new to international football.
Goalkeeper Anna Leat and midfielder Malia Steinmetz, who were standouts at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, get their first call up to the national team alongside forward Martine Puketapu and Paige Satchell who were prominent in the FIFA U-20 World Cup last year. Satchell will look to build on her debut appearance for New Zealand from last year.
Readings is excited to see what his World No 19 team is capable of when they face Scotland (World No 21), Austria (No 24) and Korea Republic (No 18) at the annual tournament.
“It will be great to have the whole group back together, we haven’t had that since the Rio Olympics, so we are looking forward to that energy that this team gets when they reassemble,” said Readings.
Vice-captain Katie Duncan, who has played 119 internationals for New Zealand, was not available for selection.
Readings, who is building for his fourth World Cup and Olympic Games, said the goal now is to build towards 2019 and 2020.
“Every time we represent New Zealand we want to win football matches, but the main focus for us has to be building towards those tournaments. So the goal is building while winning at the same time.”
Readings said Leat is a player they have been aware of for some time and said she showed great composure when she started for NZA in their opening 2-0 win over Thailand at Mt Smart Stadium.
“She has been training as part of this group for the last few years and was very impressive at the U-17 World Cup and again against Thailand,” he said. “She is definitely an exciting prospect.”
Readings said Steinmetz impressed more recently at the home training camps and against Thailand and Puketapu gets her chance to show what she can do in front of goal.
“Malia has shown a real positivity in her play which is something that we need to bring more to our game. For Martine up front, it is no secret that we need to score more goals to be more successful. She had a good U-20s World Cup and we want her to carry that form on.”
Readings is calling for Satchell, who was a travelling reserve for the Ferns to the Rio Olympics, to continue her fine form from the Thailand series where she scored a goal and set up another two in the second come-from-behind win.
“Paige is a really exciting prospect and we are looking forward to seeing her develop further in this environment. We have some experience, established players and it has been good to add in some younger, emerging players so it is a good place to be in. The challenge for the new players is to come in and make this group stronger.”
Readings expected a different challenge from each of the three nations they will face in Cyprus.
“Scotland will be strong, they have just qualified for their first Euros, and they will be looking to peak for that,” he said. “Austria are an emerging team and have some key players that we need to nullify. Korea Republic we have played a few times. We know they are going to be tough. We know that they are technically very gifted players and they are going to cause us problems. It will be great for the younger players to see these different styles and have to adapt.”