Football World Cup: Football Ferns embrace 'mini World Cup', as July showpiece looms

Teams don't often get the chance to taste the main course before it arrives, but thanks to FIFA's World Cup playoff tournament, that's a reality for the Football Ferns.

Less than a month after playing world champions USA, the NZ women are back on their home turf, gearing up for three games in the space of six days.

New Zealand will face Portugal on Friday night at Hamilton, before meeting Argentina there on Sunday and again on Thursday at Auckland. The games are among the many perks of hosting the first-ever World Cup playoff tournament.

Ten nations have travelled to Aotearoa to battle for the remaining three places at the pinnacle event, as the World Cup expands to 32 teams this year.

New Zealand and Argentina, who’ve also already qualified, are using this unique competition as preparation for their own campaigns.

“We go game by game," coach Jitka Klimková told Newshub. "We will really do everything we can to beat Portugal and get the first three points in this tournament.”

To win, you need to score goals, something New Zealand couldn’t manage against the Americans last month and only achieved six times from 12 matches in 2022. 

But Portugal and Argentina are on a similar level to the Kiwis, with the Portuguese ranked two places above them in 22nd and the South Americans 29th.

Football Ferns captain Ali Riley will bring up her 150th appearance for the national team, if selected for Friday’s match, and believes the goals will come at Hamilton.

“Portugal we see as a team we can possess more of the ball," she said. "Looking at players we have on the team, if we get a free-kick or corner, we should be putting the ball in the back of the net. 

"The squad looks very different [to the one against USA] and the players are doing great for their club teams.

The skipper is rallying her troops for their World Cup entree.