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Football Ferns 'oblivious' to Covid scare at Tokyo athletes' village

Despite Covid-19 already surfacing in the athletes' village before the Tokyo Olympics have even begun, the Football Ferns aren't letting the coronavirus' presence affect them or their campaign.

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The team said they're following protocols to stay safe so their focus is instead on their upcoming match. Source: 1 NEWS

The Football Ferns were the first New Zealand athletes to arrive at the village for this year's games, settling into accommodation on Saturday ahead of their first match against Australia on Wednesday.

Upon their arrival, news surfaced of the first positive Covid-19 Test in the village with more cases surfacing every day since - including multiple cases in the South African football team as well as a coach from the South African rugby sevens team this morning.

Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni told media in Tokyo today he and his team weren't worried about the presence of coronavirus in the village.

"To be honest, we're really kind of oblivious to that," Sermanni said.

"We follow our doctor who is extremely strict. We follow protocols and do everything we can to make sure we stay safe and healthy and hopefully, by doing that, everything will be okay.

"I don't find that as a distraction because we're focusing on what we need to do."

Source: Breakfast

The Football Ferns did acknowledge one aspect of their arrival at the village though - the special welcome given by the New Zealand team to athletes.

Forward Hannah Wilkinson told media they came prepared with a reply to the greeting they received.

"It's always such an incredible experience being welcomed into the village and such a special feeling, reminding you how proud you are to be a Kiwi by being welcomed by a haka like that.

"It was just really important to us as a team that we respond in a really special and unique way and thankfully we've got a few musicians in the team and we were able to respond with a very genuine Kiwi song - a Six60 one."

Wilkinson conceded they did practice their response before the moment though.

"A lot," she said laughing.

"We were pretty pedantic about getting it right."

Underdogs no more

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Captain Ali Riley said her side are comfortable with all the obstacles they've faced so far and those that still lie ahead. Source: 1 NEWS

That scrupulous nature is being applied to the team's on-field efforts too with belief amongst the squad they have a chance to pull off something special in Tokyo despite the odds being stacked against them.

The women's side have been drawn into Group G alongside reigning world champions the United States, world No 9 Australia, and world No 5 Sweden. 

In contrast, New Zealand are ranked 22nd, but captain Ali Riley said those ranks will mean nothing when the whistle blows.

"I think if there's any team that could take the conditions we've been thrown into and the pressure of being in a group like this and come out of it successful, it's this team," Riley said.

"The belief that this team has, the unique culture and the togetherness and this mindset and getting past this underdog mentality that we are ranked below these teams - we're here to perform the best we can on these days and on these days, I think any team can win."

Sermanni added having Australia first in their draw would be advantageous for their campaign as well.

"Australia is one of the teams that we are looking to target to get a result," Sermanni said.

"We get into a group against three very good teams but the thing we need to do is be ready to go in game one and the Australian team is one we know the best out of the three teams.

"We think that if we can get our preparation right and get our tactics right, we can get a good result."

Thanks to 1 NEWS reporter Chris Chang, there is a wee bit of pressure on the Football Ferns though. 

Chang pointed out to Sermanni during the press conference the Football Ferns would be the first athletes to compete in Tokyo when they play on Wednesday - a fun fact that had eluded the coach.

"I wasn't aware we're the first New Zealand team, I hadn't thought of that," Sermanni said.

"Thanks for the extra pressure, Chris."

The Football Ferns will either need to finish in the top two of their group or be one of the two best third-placed teams from the three women's pools in order to advance to the quarter-finals.

The Football Ferns play Australia at 11:30pm NZT this Wednesday at Tokyo Stadium.