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Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji

Co-host, New Zealand will be going for its sixth FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil with one thing in mind; leaving the group stage.

The Ferns has not gone past the group stage in its previous five appearances at the tournament in 1991, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019 despite being one of the pioneer participating teams at the maiden edition in 1991.

Previous World Cup Record

At the 1991 edition of the tournament being the maiden edition for all participating teams, New Zealand lost all its three group games to Denmark, Norway, and China.

A baptism of fire in its first game against Denmark saw the team losing 3-0 as goals from Helle Jensen (brace) and Susan Jepsen Mackensie condemned the team to a loss.

Another loss followed on November 19 as Teresa Ann McCahill’s own goal paved way for a 4-0 loss to Norway. Linda Medalen (brace) and Hege Riise compounded the Ferns woes.

The final group game saw the team scoring its first goal of the tournament despite losing 4-1 to China as Kim Barbra Nye became the first player for the team to score at the World Cup. Goals from Zhou Yang, Liu Ailing (brace), and Wu Weiying ended its campaign.

The team didn’t qualify for the next three editions of the tournament in 1995, 1999, and 2003 before its return in 2007.

China hosted the 2007 tournament with New Zealand in the same group with the host, Brazil, and Denmark; another tough group for the Oceania sole representative but couldn’t make it out of the group.

The same fate met the team at the 2011, 2015, and 2019 editions of the tournament.

The question ahead of this year’s World Cup which the team is co-hosting alongside Australia is can New Zealand break the duck and make it out of the group stage for the first time in its history?

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Group Games

New Zealand Vs Norway (July 20, 2023)

New Zealand Vs Philippines (July 25, 2023)

New Zealand Vs Switzerland (July 30)

Jitka Klimková. Women’s International Friendly - New Zealand Football Ferns v Argentina at North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday 23 February 2023. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

Coach

Former Czech defender, Jitka Klimková will lead the World Cup co-host to the tournament on home soil after she was appointed to take charge of the Ferns in 2021.

She had previously coached the United States of America (USA) at U-19 and U-20 levels as well as her country team, Czech Republic with her current assignment the biggest with the responsibility of leading the co-host past the group stage against former World Champions Norway, emerging European side in Switzerland and debutant Philippines from the Asian continent.

Klimková is the first woman appointed to coach the Football Ferns on a full-time basis.

Key Player

Captain for club and country, 35-year-old Angel City FC defender Ali Riley will lead the national team to this year's biggest women's football mundial armed with lots of experience.

Read Also - FIFA Women’s World Cup Individual Records

She has played over 100 games for the national team and featured at four FIFA Women's World Cups in 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019.

The team would also rely on one of its top goal scorers for goals at the World stage with 31-year-old Melbourne City striker Hannah Wilkinson expected to lead the team upfront.

With over 20 goals for the team in more than 100 games, her experience will surely be of huge benefit for the Ferns.

One of the experienced player in the squad, Wilkinson had grown from recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury to become an influential player in the team leading to the World Cup.

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