Like their male counterparts, the Football Ferns will be taking part in an Olympic football tournament for the first time in Beijing. The New Zealand women's team did not, in fact, take part in the Oceania qualifying event for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and in 2000 hosts Australia were the sole Oceania representatives.
The Football Ferns were fortunate enough to be seeded into a play-off berth for the Oceania slot at the Olympics. Their opponents were Papua New Guinea, winners of the XIII South Pacific Games Women's Football Tournament in Samoa. Although the Papuans gave their more favoured OFC rivals a tough test, keeping them scoreless in the first half, New Zealand secured their ticket to Beijing with two goals in the second period.
Many of the current Football Ferns gained invaluable experience at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007. Nevertheless, coach John Herdman has picked a youthful squad for the Olympic tournament, including 18-year-old defender Abby Erceg and 17-year-old fullback Anna Green. Herdman realizes that the Football Ferns face a daunting task in Beijing, but he is hoping that familiarity with the opposition will allow his charges to improve on their disappointing result in last year's FIFA Women's World Cup. "With ours being a 12 team tournament you're dealing with the top nations - the best of the best. We're really hoping we draw a team like China who we know really well."
Facts and figures
2-0 win over Papua New Guinea in the only qualifying game.
The numbers game
8: The number of players in the squad who are aged 20 or under.