Football Ferns reach Olympics after match cancelled

The second leg of the Football Ferns' Olympic qualifying match has been cancelled. Photo / Getty Images.
The second leg of the Football Ferns' Olympic qualifying match has been cancelled. Photo / Getty Images.

The Football Ferns have qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics after Papua New Guinea withdrew from the second leg of their OFC Women's Olympic Qualifier today.

FIFA were notified of the withdrawal of the Papua New Guinea women's senior team when the squad did not receive the required visas to enter New Zealand for the return match.

Fifa has opened a disciplinary case against the Papua New Guinea football federation.

New Zealand won the first leg of the Stage 2 Play-Off by a 7-1 margin in Lae, Papua New Guinea on Saturday afternoon.

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin said Tuesday's notification brought a mixed reaction from everyone involved and a replacement fixture has been quickly arranged.

"While we're obviously delighted the Football Ferns will be making the trip to Rio, we're disappointed tonight's game will not be going ahead and we won't get the chance to secure our place on the field in front of our fans," Martin said.

"However, with the team continuing their preparation as scheduled, we have organised an exhibition game against an Invitational XI which will give New Zealand fans the chance to see our best female players in action on home soil.

"It also means we still have the opportunity to mark the contribution to football of Hayley Bowden, who was recently made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and also celebrate the 100-cap marks achieved by Amber Hearn and Katie Duncan in the last year, which we had planned to do during the second leg of the playoff."

The Ferns were in camp for two weeks in the build up to the Olympic Qualifiers and a number of professional players flew back to New Zealand from Europe and America.

Ferns coach Tony Readings said he had planned on using the match to give his wider squad valuable international experience ahead of their testing March schedule.

The Ferns travel to Portugal in March for the Algarve Cup and have been drawn in a group with Brazil, Russia and Portugal.

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