The New Zealand women's soccer team heads to the 2024 Paris Olympics led by a caretaker coach and facing a "mission impossible" to reach the knockout rounds in the wake of a distracting investigation into regular boss Jitka Klimkova.

Klimkova's assistant coach Michael Mayne has control of the world No. 28 "Football Ferns," the bottom-ranked team in a tough group featuring hosts France, reigning Olympic champions Canada and Colombia at the Games.

Czech Klimkova, who was at the helm when they won their first World Cup match last year on home soil, was cleared following an independent workplace employment investigation by the governing body New Zealand Football (NZF).

She was to resume her post after the Ferns were well beaten in a pair of friendlies against Japan with Mayne in charge, but NZF changed course, delaying Klimkova's return.

"New Zealand Football has taken the view that due to concerns in relation to the team environment, her wellbeing, and a restorative process having not been completed, it would not be the right time for her to return," NZF said in a statement.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee announced the 18-woman squad for the Paris tournament, with Mayne listed as head coach.

Experienced World Cup captain and full back Ali Riley was retained despite playing minimal football for her U.S. club Angel City in recent months.

However, there was no place for experienced striker Hannah Wilkinson in a squad dominated by Olympic debutantes.

Milly Clegg, Jacqui Hand, Grace Jale, Gabi Rennie and Indiah-Paige Riley will be Mayne's forward options.

"With this tournament having smaller squads than something like the FIFA Women's World Cup we have had to make some tough decisions," Mayne said in a statement.

Dominant among the Pacific nations in the Oceania region, New Zealand has qualified for the last four Olympics, with a run to the London 2012 quarter-finals their best result.

They face African qualifiers Zambia in a pre-Games friendly on July 13 in Vichy, France, before meeting Canada in the first Olympic group match in Saint-Etienne on July 25.