The past 48 hours have been a good news, bad news, good news scenario for football's All Whites.

Off the back of their 2-2 draw with the Solomons Islands on Tuesday that sealed their passage to the final stage of World Cup qualification with an 8-3 aggregate victory, New Zealand Football have also confirmed a friendly against already-qualified Japan in Tokyo on October 6, ideal preparation for November's home and away showdown with the fifth-ranked South American team.

That's where the bad news come in. After another dramatic round of matches yesterday, Argentina are still occupying fifth position, after a shock 1-1 draw with Venezuela. The Vino Tinto have improved markedly in the past decade but Argentina were still expected to have too much class at home, especially with Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in their ranks. But they gave a stuttering, nervy display, falling behind before grabbing an equaliser through an own goal.

Though the thought of Messi at Westpac Stadium would be a tantalising prospect, it would be probably the worst scenario football-wise. Even if Argentina are currently in some disarray, the world's No3 team would be ominous opposition.


It's starting to feel like 2013 all over again, when New Zealand were expected to face Panama or Honduras, only for Mexico to miss an automatic North American qualifying spot for the first time in decades, leaving the All Whites with a battle that didn't end well.

The other South American matches yesterday saw Chile fall to Bolivia in La Paz, Peru win in Ecuador, Paraguay beaten at home by Uruguay and Colombia gain a point against Brazil. Those results leave Uruguay (27 points) and Colombia (26 points) in favourable positions to gain two of the three remaining automatic qualification spots, alongside Brazil (37 points). Peru and Argentina both sit on 24 points, with the Andean team ahead on goal average, trailed by Chile (23 points) and Paraguay (21). Ecuador (20) look out of contention.

The next match day in October sees Peru travel to Buenos Aires, which shapes as a pivotal clash, while Chile host Ecuador and Paraguay travel to Colombia.

Whoever the All Whites face will be tough - battle-hardened after an 18-game series that began almost two years ago - but Peru or Paraguay appeal as the best options for an upset.

However, the match against Japan is a perfect scenario. The Blue Samurai are a dominant force in Asian football, recently defeating Australia to confirm qualification for their sixth successive World Cup, and will provide stiff opposition. It's also a handy location, which limits travel time for New Zealand's Europea-based players and will allow for minimal interruption to their club schedules.

"Coming up against world-class opposition away from home will give us an ideal build-up," said All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. "We had options for a second game but we want to get our players back to their clubs early to help cope with the heavy schedule we face either side of this window. So this window ticks both boxes for us."

The All Whites enjoyed three wins over Japan in the 1980s; 3-1 (Auckland, 1983), 1-0 (Tokyo, 1983) and 1-0 (Kuala Lumpur, 1984). In the most recent clash, Japan prevailed 4-2 in Tokyo in 2014, with Chris Wood grabbing a brace for New Zealand.