The New Zealand Olympic Committee has named an experienced 18 player squad for the London Olympic Games, including 11 veterans of the 2008 Beijing campaign.
The Football Ferns are the opening act of the 2012 Olympics, playing hosts Great Britain in Cardiff two days before the opening ceremony but with a combined experience of 862 caps the team are unlikely to be overawed.
Its the most experienced Ferns squad named for major tournament and includes ten players with 50 caps or more to their credit.
Those players Rebecca Smith, Jenny Bindon, Abby Erceg, Ria Percival, Hayley Moorwood, Katie Hoyle, Ali Riley, Amber Hearn, Kirsty Yallop and Anna Green were all part of the 2008 Beijing squad as was defender Kristy Hill.
The balance of the squad comes from last years FIFA Womens World Cup squad although there is still room for former White Ferns cricketer Rebecca Rolls, who claims the second goalkeeper spot, and 19-year-old former Australian age-group representative Rebekah Stott who has impressed since switching allegiance back to her country of birth earlier this year.
Striker Rosie White, the other teenager in the squad, has fought her way back from a stress fracture to make the cut and is one of eight squad members aged 24 or under.
New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general and selector Kereyn Smith is proud to have named the outstanding Football Ferns today. Our Olympic Games will kick off with the womens football team taking on host nation Great Britain, she said. We couldnt have hoped for a better start to the games and we know theyll make us proud.
Weve been investing in a core group of players since 2006, said New Zealand coach Tony Readings, and now were much closer to the sort of experience that you need to do well at a pinnacle event
In terms of age, most players are yet to reach their peak but London could be the event when we really start to cash in on all that investment in international experience.
High Performance Sport New Zealand Chief Executive Alex Baumann was delighted to see the womens team named. He said a commitment was made several years ago to invest in the Football Ferns to help them get to the Olympic Games.
Over the past few years, about $1.1 million has gone to their high performance programme to help them prepare for London, and its very exciting to see the players selected today who will compete for New Zealand.
Womens football entered the Olympic Games at Atlanta 1996, where eight teams competed. The womens tournament has since expanded to include 12 teams. New Zealand made its womens football debut at Beijing 2008 where they drew one game.
New Zealand has been grouped with Great Britain, Brazil and Cameroon in Group E of the 12 nation finals.
New Zealand womens football team for London Olympics
Club caps/goals in brackets
1-Jenny BINDON Goalkeeper (Hibiscus Coast 69/0)
18-Rebecca ROLLS Goalkeeper (Fencibles United 14/0)
2-Ria PERCIVAL (USV Jena, GER 70/2)
3-Anna GREEN (Lokomotive Leipzig, GER 50/6)
5-Abby ERCEG (Fencibles United 72/4)
6-Rebecca SMITH (Captain, VfL Wolfsburg, GER 68/4)
7-Ali RILEY (Malm, SWE 61/1)
14-Kristy HILL (Eastern Suburbs 19/0)
15-Rebekah STOTT (Melbourne Victory, AUS 3/0)
4-Katie HOYLE (Bad Neuenahr, GER 62/1)
8-Hayley MOORWOOD (Chelsea, ENG 80/10)
11-Kirsty YALLOP (Vittsj, SWE 59/11)
12-Betsy HASSETT (UC Berkeley, USA 38/4)
16-Annalie LONGO (Three Kings United 42/0)
9-Amber HEARN (USV Jena, GER 59/30)
10-Sarah GREGORIUS (Bad Neuenahr, GER 28/15)
13-Rosie WHITE (UCLA, USA 35/9)
17-Hannah WILKINSON (Glenfield Rovers 33/12)
19-Katie BOWEN (Glenfield Rovers 8/0)
20-Sarah McLAUGHLIN (Claudelands Rovers 11/0)
21-Holly PATTERSON (Claudelands Rovers 4/0)
22-Erin NAYLER (Eastern Suburbs 0/0)
Olympic Build-Up - Women
New Zealand v Canada
July 14, 4pm (2am July 15 NZT)
New Zealand v Colombia
July 17, 4pm (2am July 18)
New Zealand Olympic Schedule - Women
New Zealand v Great Britain
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
4pm (3am, July 26 NZT)
New Zealand v Brazil
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2.30pm (1am, July 29 NZT)
New Zealand v Cameroon
City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry
7.45pm (6.45am, August 1 NZT)
Photo credit- Getty Images