Football: Football Ferns court true fan support before USA series, home World Cup

The Football Ferns are less than 24 hours away from kicking off their World Cup build-up against the world's best team - USA.

Ranked 24 places below their opponents, the NZ women don't need reminding of their underdog status, but they're urging the public to look beyond the scoreline.

Football fever has hit the capital  and not a moment too soon, with 2023 primed to be the biggest year for New Zealand women's football so far, and the Ferns are soaking it up.

"To really see that we're supported and just feel Kiwis around us I think is important for this camp," said midfielder Olivia Chance.

"It's a chance for them to get to know us a bit better, so it's great all round for the grassroots and everything," said forward Ava Collins.

The Ferns are the stars of the show this week, but it's a spotlight they must try and keep for July's home spectacle.

Winning would help, but after shipping 11 goals in their last two meetings against the women's football powerhouse, victory could be a bridge too far. Captain Ali Riley has appealed to fans to keep the faith

"If the Kiwi public can't get behind a team because we do our best against the world No.1 outside of a window, is that really supporting your national team?"

One player missing from the crowd is veteran defender Abby Erceg, who has confirmed her international retirement to focus on club football, just six months out from a home World Cup.

Rival captains Ali Riley (NZ) and Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)
Rival captains Ali Riley (NZ) and Lindsay Horan (USA). Photo credit: Photosport

"If she wants to focus only on that pathway, we have to respect her decision," said coach Jitka Klimkova.

The Americans aren't here to win fans over, using their time in New Zealand as a test run for their World Cup campaign.

"The time we have meals, the time we travel, the time we train... basically the whole regimen," said coach Vlatko Andonovski.

Defeat is definitely not in the US masterplan, but for the Ferns, an upset win would be... 

"Like a little cherry on the cake," insists Klimkova.

A perfect treat to start the New Year.