14 May 2015

Erceg to captain Football Ferns at World Cup

5:15 pm on 14 May 2015

The 25-year-old defender Abby Erceg will captain the New Zealand women's football team that will contest their third successive FIFA World Cup in Canada next month.

Abby Erceg

Abby Erceg Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Coach Tony Readings has revealed the 23-player squad making the trip, which includes 12 players with over 50 international caps with only goalkeeper Cushla Lichtwark - a former netballer with the Central Pulse - yet to play at senior international level.

Curiously, of the two other goalkeepers named to back up incumbent Erin Nayler, the other keeper is also a former international in another code - Rebecca Rolls spent a decade with the White Ferns cricketers before making the switch to the Ferns.

Fullback Anna Green returns from injury in recent times while striker Emma Kete also rejoins the squad after a period out of the team.

Kete, who has 48 international caps to her name, returns after having played professionally for the likes of Manchester City, Western New York Flash and Sydney FC.

Green, who has amassed over 50 caps since her debut in 2006, has also turned out for Notts County, Sydney FC and Bundesliga club Lokomotive Leipzig, is currently with Auckland club Fencibles United AFC.

Hannah Wilkinson and Betsy Hassett

Hannah Wilkinson and Betsy Hassett Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Readings said the selection process has put the team in a strong position heading into the nation's fourth World Cup event, having also appeared in the inaugural tournament in 1991.

"It's been a lengthy process which really started in 2013 when our funding and resources increased to enable us to consistently play the best teams in the world," Readings said.

"What we've seen over the time since then is regular games against the best teams, where players are frequently tested."

"During that process, we've blooded some new and younger players so it's been a really thorough selection process and we've had a chance to have a good look at players and we're really confident we've picked the best 23 players."

The squad includes 15 players who featured at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany and five of those players were also part of the team which contested the 2007 tournament in China.

Readings says the inclusion of those players - including international centurions in Erceg, Ria Percival and Katie Duncan - hasn't come by accident.

"Raising the experience of the players has been a massive part of our planning. It's all been about increasing the number of caps, increasing the amount of FIFA tournament experience and also increasing the quality of the caps as well."

"Almost all of the squad have been to youth World Cups as well so we've got that experience to fall back on. It also shows the pathway we've been putting the players through during this time is seeing some benefits and rewards."

Before the Football Ferns open their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands in Edmonton on June 6, Readings says the team will spend the majority of their time - including their May 24 clash with Japan - refining their approach.

Football Ferns - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015

(Caps/Goals - Club)

Goalkeepers

Cushla Lichtwark (0/0 - Upper Hutt City FC, NZL)

Erin Nayler (27/0 - Norwest Utd FC, NZL)

Rebecca Rolls (21/0 - Three Kings Utd, NZL)

Defenders

Catherine Bott (1/0 - Forrest Hill Milford Utd AFC, NZL)

Abby Erceg (capt - 112/5 - Chicago Red Stars, USA)

Anna Green (56/7 - Fencibles Utd AFC, NZL)

Meikayla Moore (10/0 - Eastern Suburbs AFC, NZL)

Ria Percival (102/11 - USV Jena, GER)

Ali Riley (92/1 - FC Rosengard, SWE)

Rebekah Stott (38/2 - Claudelands Rovers, NZL)

Midfielders

Katie Bowen (25/0 - University of North Carolina, NZL)

Daisy Cleverley (3/2 - Forrest Hill Milford Utd AFC, NZL)

Katie Duncan (101/1 - FC Zurich, SWI)

Betsy Hassett (77/8 - Fencibles Utd AFC, NZL)

Annalie Longo (77/6 - Coastal Spirit FC, NZL)

Evie Millynn (2/0 - Western Springs AFC, NZL)

Kirsty Yallop (89/12 - Vittsjo GIK, SWE)

Forwards

Sarah Gregorius (65/21 - AS Elfen Saitama, JPN)

Amber Hearn (98/45 - USV Jena, GER)

Emma Kete (48/3 - Fencibles Utd AFC, NZL)

Jasmine Pereira (7/0 - Three Kings Utd, NZL)

Rosie White (68/14 - Fencibles Utd AFC, NZL)

Hannah Wilkinson (68/22 - University of Tennessee, USA)

Group A match schedule

Football Ferns v Netherlands

Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Canada

Saturday 6 June, 7pm (Sunday 7 June, 1pm NZ time)

Football Ferns v Canada

Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Canada

Thursday 11 June, 7pm (Friday 12 June, 1pm NZ time)

Football Ferns v China

Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg, Canada

Monday 15 June, 6.30pm (Tuesday 16 June, 11.30am NZ time)

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.