Only 100 per cent effortwill do for Ferns
The Football Ferns’ first official match in more than 500 days is set to be their most important one at the Tokyo Olympics.
On the opening night of the women’s football tournament, July 21, they will face Australia’s Matildas in a transTasman showdown – a fixture that looms as their best chance for a win in group G.
After that comes the reigning world champions, the United States, who they have beaten once – in their first meeting back in 1987 – and perennial European powerhouse Sweden, who they have never played before.
They also haven’t beaten Australia since 1994, when their current coach, Tom Sermanni, was just beginning the first of two stints in charge over there.
But having just arrived in New Zealand for the first time in more than a year, with the transTasman travel bubble now open, Sermanni was up for the challenge that lies in front of his side.
‘‘When you look at the history between Australia and New
Zealand, the games are always competitive, so it’s a game where we’ve got a chance,’’ he said.
‘‘But like for any of the games, we need to be at 100 per cent. We need to turn up on the day and everybody needs to get out there and perform.
‘‘I’ll make no bones about that, we can’t go out and have an 80 per cent game or even a 90 per cent game.’’
No matter what happened when the draw was made, the Ferns were going to end up with three difficult opponents.
Brazil, Canada, China, Great Britain, Japan, and the Netherlands were the other teams they could have been stuck with – a group they have managed just four wins against in the nine years since the London Olympics.
The Ferns hit the ground running in their opening match at their last major tournament, the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup, creating several good chances and keeping the Netherlands, the ultimate runners-up, at bay until stoppage time, where they conceded a painful late goal.
Sermanni said they would need to repeat that performance, and then some, in three months’ time, if they were to have any chance of finishing in the top two of their group, or, more realistically, as one of the two best third-placed teams, in order to advance to the quarterfinals.