Tokyo Olympics: Football Ferns confident of shocking heavyweights US, Sweden, Australia to emerge from 'group of death'

Despite being drawn in the "group of death", the Football Ferns insist they're going to do more than make up the numbers at the Tokyo Olympics' football tournament.

Situated in Group G of the 12-team women's tournament, the Football Ferns will square off against reigning world champions USA, 2016 Olympic silver medallists Sweden, and trans-Tasman foes Australia in what's easily the most difficult of the Games' three pools.

But even with the prospect of coming up against some of world football's biggest names, the Kiwi side is confident that as a group they can upset their heavyweight opposition to push towards medal contention.

"It is a tough group for sure," striker Hannah Wilkinson tells Newshub.

"Any other time we come up against this calibre of competition, we trust ourselves. It's like what Tom [Sermanni] said, despite being apart for 16 months, we still have such a good, strong base as a unified group.

"That's something that we tend to have an advantage over teams in that way. We've been together for so long. Each one of us has very good relationships on the field, just because we've played together for so long.

"Ali [Riley] was saying before, we have such unity within the team. We're very connected right now and I think that's only going to be advantageous for us.

And the 2021 Football Ferns won't have to look far for inspiration either - with Tom Sermanni's squad boasting three players from the 2018 New Zealand side that claimed bronze at the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay back in 2018.

Goalkeeper Anna Leat, defender Marisa van der Meer and forward Gabi Rennie were all part of that side, with the Football Ferns' senior players happy to take inspiration from their younger counterparts.

"Watching that team has always been a huge inspiration for me. I'm so proud of that group for what they did there," Wilkinson adds. 

"It's definitely showing that we are capable of that kind of progression in tournaments like these. 

"I have absolutely no doubt that we can progress further into this tournament."

But the Football Ferns are also playing on for two teammates who can't be there. Defender Rebekah Stott is absent while she battles Hodgkin's lymphoma, while midfielder Rosie White is also missing due to a chronic health issue.

And Wilkinson says that the rest of the Football Ferns are playing on for their absent teammates, even carrying their jerseys with them during their Tokyo campaign.

"We really do miss them. They definitely are still part of us. 

"We have their jerseys everywhere we go, they're a constant inspiration for us all the time.

"They're always on the forefront of our minds, anything we do. It is very noticeable that they are missing for us.

"It drives us that little bit more. We're doing this for them. We're all in the same fight together, we're in everything with them."

Join Newshub for live updates of the Football Ferns v Australia from 11:30pm Wednesday.