Football Ferns desperate for answers with Women's World Cup opener only 137 days away

March 4 (Reuters) - New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell has thrown his support behind coach Jitka Klimková to turn around the fortunes of her underperforming team with less than five months before the Women's World Cup begins.

New Zealand, who will co-host the World Cup with neighbors Australia from July 20 to Aug. 20, lost all their friendlies last month, suffering a 5-0 hammering by Portugal before falling 2-0 and 1-0 to Argentina.

The defeats extended New Zealand's winless run to eight games, with the team last winning against the Philippines in a friendly in September 2022. They have also not scored in their last five games. Klimková has said she would review the team's performance and reflect on her decisions to better prepare for the World Cup.

"I have absolute confidence in Jitka (Klimková), but equally we've got to make sure that if there is any fine-tuning that can be done, we do it now," Pragnell told New Zealand's Stuff Media on Friday.

New Zealand are in Group A at the World Cup with Norway, the Philippines and Switzerland. The Football Ferns have played at the World Cup five times, having never advanced beyond the group stage.

"There are a lot of dynamics at play in terms of this team," Pragnell added. "We know that this side has never won a game at a Women's World Cup. There's an enormous opportunity right now in front of us to win games and I think get out of the group as well."

Pragnell said the team will likely play two friendlies in Europe in April and as many at home in early July as part of their preparation for this year's World Cup, which will be the first edition to feature 32 teams.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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