The Dominion Post

Ferns face 500 days on sidelines

- Phillip Rollo

Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni was inundated with messages from his players asking what games they had lined up when the Matildas announced friendlies against Germany and the Netherland­s last month.

New Zealand’s national women’s team has not played in 400 days, after losing 2-1 to Norway at the Algarve Cup on March 10, 2020, and that period of inactivity looks set to continue for at least 100 more.

Sermanni conceded the Ferns will likely head to the Tokyo Olympics without playing a single game in the leadup as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause massive logistical headaches for a country whose leading players ply their trade in different corners of the globe.

Unlike the Matildas, the Ferns don’t have the luxury of being able to select a squad of

European-based players, which would allow them to arrange meaningful friendly matches in the northern hemisphere.

Instead, Sermanni is planning to travel to Auckland from his base in Australia to host training camps with the seven players that recently took part in the W-League, as well as those on the fringes already based in New Zealand, when the trans-Tasman bubble opens next week.

‘‘What we’re trying to do is get as many players back to New Zealand as possible by hopefully the beginning of June or the middle of May and try and do what we can in New Zealand with that group of players between then and going to the Olympics,’’ Sermanni said.

Without internatio­nal games, Sermanni said it was beneficial for New Zealand to have a record number of players in the W-League, which ended on Sunday with Annalie Longo and Claudia Bunge’s Melbourne Victory edging Sydney FC 1-0 in the final.

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