Football Ferns captain Ali Riley believes the team is on the right track to make history at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
The 30-year-old, who was on the shortlist for the FIFPro Women’s World XI in the past two seasons, has said there are changes occurring within the Ferns’ culture and environment which are necessary to compete with the world’s best.
Riley, who made her debut for New Zealand back in 2007 and has played 115 games for the Ferns, said Head Coach Andreas Heraf has a great vision for the team. She is looking forward to building on their progress when they assemble to take on Japan in Wellington on 10 June.
“We have come a long way as a national team, but we certainly have a ways to go in order to be able to compete with the best teams in the world in terms of resources and performance,” said Riley.
“It’s not unusual to have growing pains in the beginning and we are going through a lot of changes at the moment, but Andreas has set a plan in motion that will make this Ferns team the best football team to have ever represented New Zealand and push the standards for future Ferns.”
The World No 20 have beaten some of the best teams in the world in recent times – as they climbed to a highest ever ranking of 16th – but they have never progressed to the Round of 16 at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Riley, who recently lifted the Swedish Cup with her club side FC Rosengard, said the ground-breaking Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) from the Professional Footballers’ Association and New Zealand Football was a huge step for the game in New Zealand.
The revised CBA offers four key factors for both the elite male and female footballers: pay parity, equal prize money, equal rights for image use and, most notably, parity across travel while representing New Zealand.
“Now with this agreement in place, we have the chance to have a more professional environment and be in the best physical and mental space to put in quality performances against top opposition,” said Riley.
“This game against Japan is just the beginning of a movement that will change sport in New Zealand and hopefully the world.”
The Football Ferns will play the World No 11 Japan at Westpac Stadium on Sunday 10 June – it is the first time that they have played in Wellington for 27 years.
International FriendlyFootball Ferns vs JapanWestpac Stadium, WellingtonSunday 10 June, 3pmTickets: Adults $15, children $5 (plus booking and credit card fees)Live on SKY Sport
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