Ferns’ next opponents are on fast-track programme for Women’s World Cup

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The Football Ferns’ next opponents, the Philippines, are on a fast-track programme to be competitive at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Philippines have qualified for the World Cup — the first time they’ve reached the tournament — and are moving up the FIFA world rankings under coach Alen Stajcic.

The Ferns play the Philippines on Wednesday (NZT) in the second game of the September international window.

New Zealand have never played the Philippines before but the team won July’s AFF Women’s Championship, their first international trophy.

Main photo: The Philippines squad celebrate winning the AFF Women’s Championship.

Ferns update

Meanwhile, the Ferns camp have provided an update on their squad ahead of the match.

Strikers Grace Jale and Hannah Wilkinson remain in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 before the game against Mexico last weekend.

Midfielder Malia Steinmetz is also now in isolation after testing positive.

Annalie Longo withdrew from the tour after tearing her ACL and MCL against Mexico.

Aniela Jensen, who played in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica last month, has joined the squad.

Before leaving for the United States, Ferns coach Jitka Klimková said:

“Philippines play a little bit differently – they don’t have a traditional style of play like South Korea, Japan or China. We will study them and prepare our players to respond to the challenge.”

Coach Statjic: ‘We’re heading in the right direction’

Stajic, who was the Australian national coach till three years ago, has fast-tracked the development of the Philippines side since taking over last October.

The team has held training camps in the United States and in Australia, played their first-ever games in Europe and won the bronze medal at this year’s South-East Asian Games.

They were beaten semi-finalists at the Asian Games at the start of 2022, going further in the tournament than Australia’s Matildas.

Stajic told the KEEP UP website:

“When you actually go out and win and do things you’ve never done before, it sets a new expectation and the realization that you can achieve things

“This team had never beaten Thailand before, never beaten Vietnam, never travelled to Europe.

“We’ve got our highest-ever ranking; the ranking when we started was 68 and now we’re 53.

“The players were talking recently and they all sort of realise that this is the start of the journey, rather than, you know, (one) big accomplishment. They are just starting to realize, actually we can do this and we can get better.

“For the World Cup, I don’t know how good we’re going to be. But I know we’re heading in the right direction. My analogy is that we’ve just climbed and conquered a little hill and that’s South-East Asia.

“The challenges ahead are going to be a much bigger mountain, you know, trying to conquer the rest of Asia and then trying to conquer the world. Just watching some of the Euros, that’s a whole new ballgame, trying to compete against them and America and Canada and Brazil.”

New Zealand v Philippines
Wednesday September 7, 2022, 12pm (NZT)
Titan Stadium, Cal State Fullerton, California

Last weekend, the Football Ferns beat Mexico 1-nil in Los Angeles.

In their previous game, New Zealand beat Mexico 1-0, thanks to a late goal from CJ Bott.

It was the Ferns’ first win in eight matches this year and their second in 12 matches under Klimkova.

Highlights from Mexico win

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