All Whites fail to find opponent for international window

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The All Whites will rely on a training camp ahead of this year's OFC Nations Cup after New Zealand Football failed to find an opponent in next month's international window.

The Nations Cup, which will decide Oceania's representative at the 2017 Confederations Cup and be used as the initial phase of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, will be held in Papua New Guinea in May and June.

NZF had hoped to secure a match for the All Whites to use as preparation, given the side played only three times in 2015 and infamously finished third at the 2012 Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands.

Instead of an international, the New Zealand team will meet for a two-week training camp in Australia ahead of their departure to Papua New Guinea. Their first game will be against Fiji on May 29.

It will be a big blow for All Whites coach, who Anthony Hudson last month labelled New Zealand's football culture "soft", criticised the attitude of some youth players and said it would be "impossible" to build a squad capable of qualifying for the World Cup unless the All Whites got more fixtures.

"We have worked exceptionally hard over an extended period in our attempts to secure a suitable opponent for March which meets our needs both on and off the field of play," NZF chief executive Andy Martin said.

"Unfortunately, with a number of our preferred opponents taking part in their own World Cup qualification pathways, on this occasion we haven't been successful in finding suitable opposition.

"As a result we've turned our attention to providing the best possible preparation for the team ahead of their Nations Cup campaign.

"That will take the form of a two-week training camp in Australia where Anthony can work with his team for a lengthy period, an opportunity he is understandably always eager to take full advantage of."

Although disappointed his side won't be in action in March, Hudson said the camp would at least allow him to work with the squad for an extended period.

"Clearly we would have liked to be playing during the March window but we haven't been able to find a suitable opponent," Hudson said. "But what we can do now is move forward with certainty for the crucial final stages of our preparation for the Nations Cup.

"We've communicated our plans to our squad in the last few days and both myself and Alex [Armstrong] will be visiting the players and the clubs over the next few weeks to outline our approach in more detail.

"The camp in Australia provides a good chance for us to work with the group and put to use the knowledge and experience we gained around playing in Papua New Guinea during the Olympic qualification process last year. The team will arrive in Port Moresby fully focussed and ready to secure a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup."

- NZ Herald

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