Football Ferns: Sarah Gregorius retires after earning 100th cap

Former Football Ferns captain Sarah Gregorius has announced her retirement from international football, after bringing up her 100th cap for New Zealand.

The striker hit the milestone in Thursday's (NZ time) penalty-shootout win over Belgium in New Zealand's opening match of the Algarve Cup in Portugal.

The Ferns prevailed 7-6 in the shootout, after the game finished 1-1 at Estádio Municipal Bela Vista.  

Gregorius, 32, made a brief cameo off the bench, before scoring in the shootout. 

She previously retired from the international game in December 2016, after the Rio Olympics, but returned in 2018. 

"Today was my 100th and final match for New Zealand," she tweeted on Thursday. 

"Time to [re-]retire and with no take-backs this time. What an incredible ride it's been - with tonight's game fitting into that quite nicely.

"And a very, VERY big thank you to Tom Sermanni, the staff and my Fernies for giving me the opportunity to get this milestone. I know I'm one of the lucky ones, to get the chance to go out this way."

Gregorius first spoke to coach Sermanni in November, after bringing up her 99th cap for New Zealand. 

Sermanni felt that Gregorius deserved to become the 10th Football Fern to earn 100 caps and asked her to come back one more time. 

"She's in a new position, where her situation in Amsterdam makes it impossible for her to continue her commitments to football and commitments to the job," he told Newshub.

"We initially talked about it in our China tour last November, but we were never going to let her retire without her 100th cap, so tonight was that occasion. She was able to score with her very last touch, so a fantastic way for her to finish. 

Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni.
Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni. Photo credit: Photosport

"She comes on for a cameo and then goes off to her job. It is always tough when a player has to retire, but you couldn't ask for a better way to go." 

Uncapped defender Marisa van der Meer will take Gregorius' place in the team.

The Ferns will face Italy for a spot in the Algarve Cup final on Sunday.