New Zealand’s squad of 23 has been named for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup which kicks off on July 20. Here’s LockerRoom’s guide for the Football Ferns hoping to make history. 

Win a game, get out of pool play. It may seem simple, but these are two things the Football Ferns have never accomplished at a FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

The Ferns attended their first World Cup in 1991, losing all three of their pool matches and didn’t qualify for another tournament until 2007, where their fate was the same. 

Their first draw came in 2011, the Ferns 2-0 down at the end of regulation play against Mexico. But a 90th minute goal, and then an equaliser by current Fern Hannah Wilkinson in the 94th minute saw the Ferns draw 2-2. 

Since then, the team have managed two more draws, but never a win, and never able to escape bottom place on the ladder. 

A recent slip down the world rankings sees the Football Ferns sitting at 26th. Their first opponent on July 20 is Norway, who are ranked 12th, and later Switzerland at 20th, who they face on July 30. 

Their best chance for the elusive win comes against the Philippines on July 25, who are ranked 46th. The last time the two teams met was in September, where the Ferns came away with the 2-1 win. 

But the Football Ferns haven’t won a game since then. In fact they’ve only scored two goals in their past 10 games. 

So will home advantage give the Ferns the boost they need to escape pool play, or will they be destined to another tournament that finishes after just 11 days? 

LockerRoom previews the 23-strong team who are determined to make history. 

Football Ferns 

Ria Percival – 161 caps

New Zealand’s most capped football player (male or female), Percival has been out of action for the Ferns since rupturing her ACL in April of last year, the damage to her meniscus cartilage the worst her surgeon in London had ever seen

She returned for her club, Tottenham Hotspur in late April, but will make her long awaited Ferns return when she takes the field at this World Cup – her fifth. 

Ali Riley – 152 caps

Riley made her Football Ferns debut in 2007, and amassed her 150th cap earlier this year in a game against Portugal. Born and raised in California, Riley is eligible to play for New Zealand through her dad, and has played all her international football for NZ. 

The defender has scored two Ferns goals, and has captained the side since 2017 (almost 50 matches with the armband). She plays her club football for Angel City FC in the National Women’s Soccer League in the US, where she’s the captain of the team well known for tackling issues larger than football

Betsy Hassett – 143 caps

Hassett may pass Abby Erceg as the third most capped Football Fern during this World Cup, having made her debut in 2008, while she was still in high school. 

The 32-year-old has played for teams across the world, but most recently for the Wellington Phoenix, scoring two goals in her first professional season at home. 

Annalie Longo hasn’t been seen in the Football Ferns since September, but will have her chance this month. Photo: NZ Football/supplied

Annalie Longo – 127 caps 

Another member of the rehab team, Longo tore her ACL in September and has yet to play a game, the injury ruling her out of a much-desired season with the Wellington Phoenix over summer. She was busy on the sidelines, working for NZ Football, coaching and in commentary

But despite not pressuring herself to be back in time, Longo’s recovery went to plan and her experience will be an asset for this Ferns side. 

Hannah Wilkinson – 113 caps

A prolific goal scorer, Wilkinson is the only Football Fern to have found the back of the net in the past seven months. The centurion sits third on the all-time goal scorer list for the Ferns, with 28 goals over 113 appearances. 

New Zealand have scored eight goals in their 15 World Cup games, Wilkinson responsible for two of them, including a 94th minute goal to draw against Mexico in 2011 – the Ferns’ first pool point at a World Cup. She’s one to look to for goal scoring – fiery on field, but a kind, artistic soul off. 

Katie Bowen – 92 caps

Bowen has been around the New Zealand environment for a long time, making her debut in the U17 team on her 14th birthday in 2008. The midfielder is now closing in on 100 Ferns caps, while playing over in the US for 10 years

Rebekah Stott – 89 caps 

Stott faced her biggest obstacle off the football field, being diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2021. She’s now been in remission for two years, and had her eyes set on this home World Cup throughout her chemotherapy. 

Erin Nayler – 83 caps

The Ferns’ most experienced goalkeeper, Nayler is likely to be the number one choice in goal for the World Cup. The 31-year-old was chosen, but didn’t play in the 2011 World Cup, and has since attended two more World Cups, as well as playing at two Olympic Games

Liv Chance has found the back of the net twice for the Football Ferns. Photo: Getty Images

Olivia Chance – 43 caps

Chance has been playing for Celtic, in the Scottish Women’s Premier League since 2021, but still regularly wears the fern. In fact, data showed she was the most travelled women’s player over the last year, going over 145,000kms in 12 trips to represent New Zealand. 

Paige Satchell – 42 caps

The speedy forward’s background in cross country lends itself to her football career, the 25-year-old never running out of steam on attack. Satchell has developed into a regular starter for the Ferns, after three seasons in the women’s A-League, most recently with the Wellington Phoenix. 

CJ Bott – 37 caps

Bott’s last World Cup ended in pain, as a stray ball hit her arm, fracturing her wrist and ruling her out after needing surgery. The defender plays for Leicester City in the Super League, the highest level of women’s football in England. 

Daisy Cleverley – 31 caps 

Despite making her senior debut in 2014, Cleverley only has 31 Football Ferns caps, but will be attending her third World Cup with the Ferns. The 26-year-old midfielder played for HB Køge in Denmark this season, the team winning the league. 

Gabi Rennie – 24 caps

Only 21, Rennie scored her first Football Ferns goal at the Tokyo Olympics against Australia. She also found the back of the net against South Korea at the end of 2021. The forward has been playing college football in the US since 2020. 

Claudia Bunge – 20 caps 

Bunge will play her first senior World Cup, making her Ferns debut months after the 2019 edition. At just 23, the defender has maturity on and off the field and has been a key player for the Melbourne Victory since 2020. 

The Football Ferns at the World Cup team announcement. Photo: Getty Images

Malia Steinmetz – 18 caps

Once captain of the U20 side, the now 24-year-old is of Samoan heritage and has played in Australia since 2019. After spending some time out of the squad, Steinmetz has been a regular starter lately. 

Elizabeth Anton – 18 caps

Anton has played for the Perth Glory since 2020, where she’s been awarded with a lot of minutes. Her Ferns debut was in 2017, and spent a few years out of the team before coming back strong. 

Grace Jale – 17 caps 

One of the standout players for the Wellington Phoenix’s first season, Jale moved to Canberra United, where she continued her goal scoring dominance. Her 17 Ferns caps have amassed since 2018. 

Victoria Esson – 14 caps

The goalkeeper made her senior debut for the Ferns in 2017, in a 5-0 win over Thailand. She’s been part of the NZ environment since making the U17 team in 2008, and this will be her second World Cup. 

Jacqui Hand – 12 caps 

Hand’s 12 caps have all come since October 2021, when she made her debut against Canada, and scored her first Ferns goal the next month. The 24-year-old plays in Finland, where’s she’s a strong striker. 

Anna Leat – 9 caps 

The Ferns’ third goalkeeper, Leat is just 22, but plays for Aston Villa in the English Women’s Super League. She made her senior debut in 2017, at just 16 years old, and had some strong appearances at youth World Cups – this will be her first senior tournament. 

Indiah-Paige Riley – 7 caps 

No relation to Ali, Riley switched allegiance from Australia to New Zealand (the country of her birth) and made her Ferns debut last year. At only 21, the forward has a bright future in the Ferns. 

Michaela Foster – 4 caps 

After a stellar season with the Wellington Phoenix, the defender made her Ferns debut in February in her home of Hamilton and her recent form could see her challenge more experienced players for playing time. 

Milly Clegg – 2 caps

The youngest member of the squad, 17-year-old Clegg has been predicted to be a Football Ferns star for years, a scoring machine at youth World Cups. With the Ferns having a recent drought of goals, Clegg could be brought on to bring her magic to the senior side. 

*Ava Collins (11 caps), Meikayla Moore (63 caps) and Kate Taylor (eight caps) have been named as training partners – Moore a shock omission from the side.

Merryn Anderson is a sports writer for LockerRoom. She has a Bachelor in Communications from the University of Waikato.

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