Hearn gets Football Ferns' greenlight

Last updated 10:01 08/06/2008

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Former Arsenal striker Amber Hearn is back in the international soccer scene and is chasing a place in the New Zealand women's team for the Beijing Olympics.

She has been selected in the Football Ferns squad for the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea from June 14-21.

New Zealand have accepted a late invitation to replace North Korea in the eight-nation tournament.

They open the tournament against the hosts in front of an expected crowd of 30,000 before tackling South American champions Argentina and world No 9 Canada.

Coach John Herdman said the Peace Queen Cup's condensed week-long format and intense competition is ideal preparation for the pressure of an Olympic Games, and has welcomed the return of Hearn into a group that will form the backbone of his Beijing squad.

"Amber adds a new dimension to the team and has inspired other players to take a more attacking and positive approach to their play," Herdman said.

Hearn joined Arsenal as a teenager in 2004, winning both the FA Women's Premier League and League Cup and reached the semifinals of the European club competition.

Following an injury-curtailed second season in England with Doncaster Rovers Belles, the former New Zealand women's player of the year opted to take an extended sabbatical from the sport to travel.

Now 23, she is back playing for her home town club Lynn-Avon.

Hearn played her sixth and last international against Japan in 2005.

"There's such an attacking mentality at the moment, I'm just loving playing for the team again," she said of the New Zealand women's team.

Sweden-based defender Rebecca Smith – a 2007 Fifa world women's player nominee – also returns to the squad as one of six overseas based players.

Uncapped Three Kings United defender Kristy Hill, 28, is the bolter in the squad of 19 and fellow newcomer Betsy Hassett caps a meteoric rise to become the seventh teenager in the side.

Hassett, 17 and who played for Auckland last year, won the national women's league's player of the year title and is now in line to earn her first senior cap before playing for the under-20 side in their World Cup this year.

Travelling squad

Goalkeepers: Jenny Bindon (Waitakere), Rachel Howard (TSV Crailsheim).

Defenders: Anna Green (Three Kings United), Abby Erceg (Western Springs), Kristy Hill (Three Kings), Ria Percival (FC Indiana), Rebecca Smith (Sunnana SK).

Midfielders: Betsy Hassett (Three Kings), Katie Hoyle (Lynn Avon), Annalie Longo (Three Kings), Emily McColl (Coastal Carolina University), Hayley Moorwood (Lynn Avon), Ali Riley (Stanford University), Kirsty Yallop (Lynn Avon).

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Forwards: Merissa Smith (Three Kings), Emma Kete (Lynn Avon), Renee Leota (Western Springs), Amber Hearn (Lynn Avon), Emma Humphries (Coastal Carolina University).

Management: John Herdman (head coach), Julie Hogg (manager) Jill Gilmore (technical team), Simon Eaddy (goalkeeping coach), Tony Readings (technical analysis), Helen Tunstall (sports science), Alysha Blackwell (physiotherapist)

Teams

Group A: Argentina, Canada, Korea Republic, New Zealand

Group B: Australia, Brazil, Italy, USA

Matches

June 14 – New Zealand v South Korea (9pm NZT)

June 16 – b New Zealand v Argentina (9pm)

June 18 – New Zealand v Canada (6pm)

June 21 – Final: Group A winner v Group B winner (6pm)

- NZPA

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