Football Ferns coach Tony Readings says New Zealand can challenge for a medal at the Rio Olympics if the bulk of the current squad stays together and they get the right preparation.
Lofty ambitions maybe, but Readings is adamant improvements the Ferns have made in the past four years will not stop here.
New Zealand were yesterday bundled out of the Olympics after a 2-0 loss to world No 1 and defending champions the United States in their quarterfinal at St James' Park.
It followed 1-0 losses to Britain and Brazil and a 3-1 win over Cameroon in pool play.
They were competitive but not good enough to threaten the big teams, though Readings reckons with four more years under their belt, they will be.
“I think you'll see this team go from strength to strength, because we're still a pretty young team,” he said.
“We should peak for the next World Cup (2015) and the 2016 Olympics and hopefully get ourselves on that podium.”
The bulk of the starting team has been around for several years but they're still young in age, so most should be available in 2016, with the probable exception of goalkeeper Jenny Bindon, who is 40 next year. Otherwise, captain Rebecca Smith would be by some way the oldest in Rio, at 35.
It will be Readings' big job to develop players who can regularly create and score goals against top-10 teams. It was the first time they've made the quarterfinals of a major Fifa tournament, but it's hard to know just what to make of it.
“We've got to be happy with what we've achieved here,” Readings said. “We've shown consistently throughout the tournament that we can compete with these big teams now."
- Sunday News