Soccer: Socceroos, Bafana to take on All Whites

By Michael Brown

Australia and South Africa head the teams being lined up to take on the All Whites in New Zealand in October.

New Zealand Football want to host a high-profile side, perhaps even two, to maintain momentum after the All Whites' success at the World Cup and to thank the New Zealand public for their support of the team.

They have been in talks about playing a friendly match in the double Fifa window on October 9-13. While it is still early days, Australia and South Africa are near the top of that list. They hope to have an opponent confirmed by the end of the month.

"They are among two we have talked to but it would be premature to say we are in deep dialogue with them," said New Zealand Football chief executive Michael Glading, who is still in South Africa as a member of the World Cup disciplinary committee.

"We are talking to about four or five countries but many of those are in the process of appointing new coaches and won't commit until they have done that."

Australia and South Africa are in that position after Pim Verbeek and Carlos Alberto Parreira ended their respective tenures when the Socceroos and Bafana Bafana failed to progress to the second round at the World Cup.

Both countries would be attractive opposition in New Zealand because of historical sporting relations as well as large expat communities here.

Ricki Herbert is friends with SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt, who was a classmate of Herbert and Roy Keane's when they sat their Uefa Pro Licence. He is understood to have said he will try to bring South Africa to New Zealand if appointed Bafana coach. Hunt is in the running, although Parreira's assistant, Pitso Mosimane, is favoured to take over.

NZF chairman Frank van Hattum said they were considering the option of hosting two teams in October.

"There's potential to play two teams and that's what we are aiming for," van Hattum said. We need teams that are going to excite the public rather than, with all due respect, teams like Fiji or Vanautu."

Staging a match won't be cheap. Teams typically charge a match fee of around US$150,000 and the host also picks up costs of about US$100,000. But NZF are confident of selling out on the back of interest in the All Whites.

There have been suggestions a match against Australia would take place in Wellington while any fixture against South Africa would be played in Auckland because of the sizeable South African community.

Regular fixtures against Australia make sense. The All Whites have met the Socceroos 63 times since Carisbrook in 1922 but May's friendly in Melbourne was just the first in nearly five years.

The two used to meet regularly in World Cup and Confederations Cup qualifiers but Australia's move into Asia virtually scuppered matches. Both countries have expressed a desire to play more regularly, perhaps for something similar to the Bledisloe Cup, and transtasman rivalry would make it a tasty encounter.

On the eve of May's match, All Whites striker Rory Fallon, who previously said he doesn't like playing friendlies, said "all bets are off" when it comes to playing Australia. He also predicted there could be a few injuries because of the feeling between the two sides, which drew the ire of Australia.

As it turned out, Tim Brown had his World Cup wrecked by a fractured shoulder and Leo Bertos was lucky to escape serious injury after tackles from Vince Grella and Tim Cahill.

Players and officials will point to the fact it's difficult to assemble the best players for a friendly match between the two sides, particularly on this side of the world, because of the heavy demands on players. Australia also have a busier international programme because of Asian Cup qualifiers.

However, All Whites skipper Ryan Nelsen said recently it would be a worthwhile exercise.

"If we played Australia in New Zealand there wouldn't be a stadium big enough to hold the crowd," he said before the May friendly.

"That's how much interest there is at the moment."

- Herald on Sunday

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