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Erceg to lead strong Football Ferns squad at Rio Olympics

New Zealand’s Football Ferns will be captained by Western New York Flash midfielder Abby Erceg when they travel to Brazil for the Rio Olympics in August, and will compete in a very strong group.


Erceg, who is one of two players in the squad to play professionally in the USA (the other is FC Kansas City’s Katie Bowen), will compete in her third Olympics, and has the most appearances in the squad (126).

Seven of the players will compete in their third Olympics, and five have more than 100 caps, and will be expected to lead a contingent of Olympic rookies. This includes Bowen, who was a reserve in 2012 in London.

Coach Tony Readings conceded that he had to make many tough choices in naming the 18 players, saying on the NZ Football website: “This will be my third Olympic Games, along with some of the players, and this has definitely been the toughest squad to choose.

“There have been some players who have been very unfortunate to miss out and that just shows the depth of our squad.

“Having girls who have been to three Olympic Games and to numerous age-group world events means they have been there and done it before.

“That experience will be a key factor when we get to the Olympics, no doubt.”

Their first opponents are defending Olympic champions and World Cup holders the USA, and Readings has no desire to assume a defeat, and they will be putting all their effort into upsetting FIFA’s top-ranked side.

He said: “We are not the sort of team who just wants to get out the group, we want to get through to right to the end of the tournament.

“You will likely have to play the USA at some stage in the tournament and you need to beat them. For us to play them first up is a great opportunity.

“We want to make a big statement as a team in this Olympics and we know that we can. In 20 years’ time hopefully we can look back with pride on the legacy we left in women’s football in New Zealand.

“To see the girls work so hard to achieve something like that has been incredible to be a part of.”

Squad (clubs, caps, goals):

Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City, USA, 37, 1)
Katie Duncan (vc) (FC Zurich, Switzerland, 115, 1)
Abby Erceg (c)  (Western New York Flash USA, 126, 6)
Anna Green (Malbackens IF Sweden, 60, 7)
Sarah Gregorius (Speranza FC Osaka-Takatsuki, Japan, 78, 24)
Betsy Hassett (Werder Bremen, Germany, 91, 8)
Amber Hearn (USV Jena, Germany, 112, 50)
Annalie Longo (Cashmere Technical, 91, 8)
Meikayla Moore (Norwest United, 14, 0)
Erin Nayler (Norwest United, 40, 0)
Ria Percival (USV Jena, Germany, 116, 11)
Jasmine Pereira (Three Kings United, 18, 0)
Ali Riley (FC Rosengard, Sweden, 101, 1)
Rebecca Rolls (Three Kings Utd, 22, 0)
Rebekah Stott (SC Sand, Germany, 49, 4)
Rosie White (Liverpool FC, England, 81, 14)
Hannah Wilkinson (University of Tennessee, USA, 74, 23)
Kirsty Yallop (Malbackens IF, Sweden, 99, 12)