Football Ferns: Abby Erceg's return built on restored confidence in national setup

New Zealand's hopes of success at this year's FIFA Women's World Cup have been given a major boost with the return of the country's best player.

Former captain Abby Erceg has come out of international retirement for the second time to make herself available for Football Ferns selection.

And the new coach and her teammates have today revealed what inspired the change of heart.

The toxic environment under former coach Andreas Heraf prompted  Erceg to turn her back on New Zealand Football last year

But with new coach Tom Sermanni now in charge of the team, she's keen to return to the Ferns fold.

"I have a lot of confidence in Tom and what he is going to do with the team, and obviously, with the girls, I have worked with all of them before," Erceg told Newshub.
"I think it is going to be a lot of fun." 

Erceg's new coach happy to have such an influential player on board.

"I don't think it took an awful lot to convince her," Sermanni told Newshub.

"Like all Kiwis, they love to play for their country and Abby's no different."

While Sermanni reached out to Erceg in a bid to coax her out of retirement, a day spent with the squad last November, before their World Cup qualifying tournament in New Caledonia, clinched her comeback.

The day was designed to rebuild a team culture destroyed under Heraf.

Teammate Sarah Gregorius identified that moment as pivotal in the future of the Football Ferns.

"For me, it was one of the most important days I've ever had, in terms of the Ferns and what we're about in our environment," Gregorius said. "I think she felt that there was a special energy and it was a difficult day, but by the end, it was overwhelmingly positive." 

Named the best defender in the US national women's soccer league in 2018, Erceg remains at the peak of her powers, and the 29-year-old's addition has transformed the team's hopes and expectations for this year's World Cup.

"She brings the on-field leadership, a player playing at the highest level in the world, she's one of the best defenders in the world, and she also brings great leadership and sets standards that'll be a big boost for the team," said Sermanni.

Erceg just wants to put the last year behind her, with a Football World Cup just months away.

"I really want to do everything I can to help the team do as well as they can in these big events, and that's kind of what it's all about and what it's all been for," she said.

Erceg's set to add to her 132 caps next month, when the Ferns line up for friendlies against Australia, Korea and Argentina.