The New Zealand women's football side will hope it was just a blip earlier this month.

The Football Ferns were beaten just three times in 11 matches last year as they climbed to a high of 16 in the world rankings but started this year with three defeats at an invitational tournament in China.

They have the chance to turn that around when they head to the Cyprus Cup tournament starting on March 6. They have done well at the tournament before, finishing third last year when they beat Switzerland in a playoff and runner up in 2010.

They will meet Ireland (ranked 33rd), Switzerland (22) and South Korea (17) in Group B of the 12-team tournament which also features six nations ranked above New Zealand including France (5) Canada (7) and Australia (9).

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Coach Tony Readings will take a side with a sprinkling of young talent.

Goalkeeper Lily Alfeld _ captain of the side which last week qualified for the Under-20 Women's World Cup _ gets an opportunity with the senior team for the first time with Rebecca Rolls unavailable due to work commitments.

Alfeld joins fellow under-20 squad members Stephanie Skilton, Evie Millynn and CJ Bott as players in the senior mix who are yet to feature at full international level and they get a chance with a handful of players sidelined including fullback Ali Riley.

"China was good preparation for Cyprus, which is always an important tournament for us,'' Readings said. ``Before China we hadn't played in three months so it gave the players another chance to work together after a break.

"The team stepped forward in the areas we want to progress and we've got four more games to take four more steps in Cyprus.

"We're beginning to build a solid foundation in possession and we know it's going to be difficult when teams have numbers behind the ball. So our core focus is working on developing the patience and composure in possession the closer we get to the opposition goal and retaining the ability to be positive at the right moments.''

New Zealand women's football squad for the Cyprus Cup football tournament (March 5-13):

Goalkeepers: Erin Nayler (Eastern Suburbs), Lily Alfeld (Coastal Spirit).

Defenders: Catherine Bott (Waterside Karori), Katie Bowen (University of North Carolina), Abby Erceg (c _ USV Jena), Megan Lee (Louisiana State University), Meikayla Moore (Coastal Spirit), Ria Percival (USV Jena), Rebekah Stott (SC Sand).

Midfielders: Betsy Hassett (Manchester City), Katie Hoyle (Notts County), Annalie Longo (Three Kings Utd), Evie Millynn (San Diego State University), Kirsty Yallop (Vittsjo).

Forwards: Helen Collins (Claudelands Rovers), Sarah Gregorius (unattached), Amber Hearn (USV Jena), Stephanie Skilton (Syracuse University), Rosie White (University of California), Hannah Wilkinson (University of Tennessee).

Match schedule

New Zealand v Republic of Ireland (1.30am March 6 NZT)

New Zealand v Switzerland (4.30am March 8 NZT)

New Zealand v South Korea (4.30am March 11 NZT)

Playoff match TBC (March 13 NZT)