The Football Ferns' build-up to the Tokyo Olympics has been given a significant boost with confirmation they will compete in the Algarve Cup in March.
The tournament features eight nations with New Zealand set to be joined by Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.
While the Football Ferns' opposition won't be revealed until the tournament draw occurs on January 7, coach Tom Sermanni said everyone will be a tough challenge - a perfect stepping stone towards Tokyo.
"When you look at the teams involved in the Algarve Cup, it's going to be a strong competition," Sermanni said. "Every game at the Olympics is going to be exceptionally tough and the Algarve Cup will be the same.
"This is another step in our preparation for the Olympics and the important thing for us is to continue to figure out ways in which we can get results going forward.
"We need to find ways to do better in certain moments of games which are ending up being pivotal in the outcomes."
The Football Ferns will enter the tournament in a small rut having lost their last two matches 2-0 to China and 3-0 to Canada.
However, Sermanni did use those matches to give younger members of the squad valuable game time with Claudia Bunge, Nicole Stratford and Jana Radosavljevic all making their debuts, and Hannah Blake earning her second appearance.
But Sermanni warned that approach will likely change now.
"There's now very little time to prepare for the Olympics so it's a balancing act," Sermanni said.
"We need to find that balance between seeing if players are going to be competitive enough to come into the squad and making sure we get the best possible preparation for the Olympics.
"The more international games we get, the more time we can play together and that will have many benefits for the team leading into Tokyo."