Soccer: Auckland and Dunedin fighting it out for NCL game

The chances of Ryan Nelsen featuring appear slim but the All Whites are set to play their crucial World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in March in Auckland or Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images.
The chances of Ryan Nelsen featuring appear slim but the All Whites are set to play their crucial World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in March in Auckland or Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images.

The chances of Ryan Nelsen featuring appear slim but the All Whites are set to play their crucial World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in March in Auckland or Dunedin.

Nelsen has not yet announced his international retirement after being unveiled as Toronto's new coach and New Zealand Football remain "hopeful" he might play once more for the All Whites being calling time on a remarkable career.

They hope that might be in their match-up with New Caledonia on March 22, when a point from the game will see the All Whites progress to November's intercontinental playoff against the fourth-best side in Central and North America for a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The All Whites are also due to play the Solomon Islands in Honiara on March 26 but the Solomon Islands Football Federation are effectively bankrupt and NZF have put a proposal to them to play their match, as well as their one against Tahiti on March 22, in New Zealand.

Their decision on that - playing both games in New Zealand would be less of a strain financially for them - has an impact on where NZF decide to stage their match against New Caledonia. If Tahiti, who are already out of contention, agree to play the Solomon Islands in New Zealand, NZF could stage the games as part of a double header.

The most likely venue would then be North Harbour Stadium or Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland. Dunedin's indoor stadium comes into the equation if the New Caledonia game is a one-off.

NZF are eager to make a decision so they can not only book flights for the players - it costs around $120,000 to assemble the team - but also begin marketing the game.

"A whole lot of things are bubbling around it," NZF high performance manager Fred de Jong said. "We are working on the best and fairest way around it. If it's a double header, then it will be in Auckland but if it's just against New Caledonia, then Dunedin is a possibility.

"It's all contingent on the Solomons because they are bankrupt. Oceania are looking at ways to help out and we are waiting to see what eventuates."

It's another illustration of the complexities of playing within the Oceania Football Confederation. In the past, Oceania tournaments have been postponed because it was deemed unfair to ask players from island teams to get time off work and a World Cup qualifier against Fiji was also postponed because their goalkeeper was denied entry to New Zealand for political reasons.

De Jong said the location of March's match would have no bearing on where the home leg of November's intercontinental playoff would be held. Wellington hosted the playoff in 2009, when the All Whites beat Bahrain to qualify, and NZF know it is the one game every four years that has the potential to sell out and make them money.

"The November game stands on its own," he said. "There will be a completely different set of requirement around that game. It's such a big one. Whoever wants it will have to bid for it. It will come down to how many seats, ticket pricing and what the stadium and the city can do for us."

- APNZ

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