Soccer: All Whites have tough start to qualifiers

Grant McKavanagh. Photo / Natalie Slade
Grant McKavanagh. Photo / Natalie Slade

A grudge match against New Caledonia kicks off the All Whites' next stage of Fifa World Cup qualifying on September 7.

The draw for stage three qualifiers made by the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) in Auckland yesterday pitted New Zealand against the team that knocked them out of the the OFC Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands earlier this month.

The Solomon Islands visit New Zealand four days later before home and away ties against Oceania champions Tahiti in October.

New Caledonia travel to New Zealand for a Friday night match next March 22 before the All Whites conclude stage three in the Solomon Islands on March 26.

The All Whites would surely want their spot in the fourth and final phase of World Cup qualifying locked up before returning to the heat of Honiara after their struggles there in the Nations Cup.

The winner of stage three, which is contested in a league format, progress to a home-and-away playoff against the fourth-best team from Concacaf (North and Central America) in November 2013 for a place among the 32 finalists at the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.

New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh said the process of locking in venues for New Zealand's home games would now gather pace.

"We're committed to spreading games around the country and now we have dates locked in we can progress those discussions with councils and venues keen to host a World Cup qualifier.

"Qualifying for a second straight Fifa World Cup remains the big prize and recent events have only reinforced how important home advantage will be as the team try to achieve what no Oceania team has done before."

- APNZ

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