Soccer: All Whites announce Japan friendly

Both the All Whites and Football Ferns will play friendlies against Japan next year. Photo / Getty
Both the All Whites and Football Ferns will play friendlies against Japan next year. Photo / Getty

Both the All Whites and Football Ferns will play friendlies against Japan next year in a sign of a burgeoning relationship with the Asian powerhouse.

The All Whites' fixture in Tokyo on March 5 against the World Cup-bound Samurai Blue honours an agreement to reschedule an international friendly from which New Zealand reluctantly withdrew after the tragic earthquake that struck the country in March 2011.

The new match, that last to be played at the National Olympic Stadium, will act as a farewell to the home of Japanese football before the venue is demolished and rebuilt in time for the 2020 Olympic Games.

"Given the empathy New Zealanders felt and still feel for what their country went through in the tragedy of 2011, it was a tough decision, albeit the right one, to pull out of the match,'' said New Zealand Football high performance manager Fred de Jong. "It's great now three years later to be able to restore the fixture to the calendar.

Meanwhile, the Football Ferns' meeting against the world champions in Osaka on May 8 adds to a growing rivalry between the two teams, who have met four times since 2008 with a pair of wins to Japan and two draws.

The second of those draws was part of a memorable year that included a bevy of positive results against top-tier nations. The result was perhaps only topped by a season-capping 1-1 draw with world number one United States and the wins over Brazil and China to lift the Valais Cup.

De Jong said both fixtures are important steps on each team's road to respective World Cups.

"The Ferns have been making impressive progress towards their goals of being present at the business end of the 2015 Fifa Women's World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics.

"We won't be in Brazil next year, so our All Whites programme shifts focus towards Russia 2018 and what the shape of that team will be.''

De Jong also said it was too early to say whether a permanent coach would be in place for the All Whites in time for the March fixture, given a review of the last campaign was underway.

"The review will influence what the role looks like when we advertise but, regardless of whether it's the permanent or interim coach in charge in March, the match is a valuable opportunity for the All Whites programme.''

- APNZ

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