New Zealand take on Australia in their first home game in five years
Wellington (AFP) – New Zealand’s men’s soccer team will play in front of home fans for the first time in nearly five years when they host Australia in a landmark friendly in September.
The All Whites will face the Socceroos at Auckland’s Eden Park on September 25, marking the 100th anniversary of the first international match between the neighbours.
It will be the rugby venue’s first senior football international, with the game coming a day after a Bledisloe Cup rugby test between the nations there.
The Socceroos will also host New Zealand in a two-match series, the date and venue of which are yet to be determined. They haven’t faced each other in over a decade.
This week, the two nations will only think about qualifying for the World Cup.
Australia will face the United Arab Emirates in an Asian qualifier on Tuesday in Doha. The winners will face Peru on June 13 for a place in the World Cup final in Qatar later this year.
New Zealand will face Costa Rica a day later, also in Qatar, to determine the 32nd and final team in the final.
The All Whites’ last international home game was a World Cup qualifier against Peru in December 2017, a draw which they eventually lost.
New Zealand’s remote location makes it difficult to win over strong opposition to the trip, while the cost and logistics of bringing in their largely overseas-based players add further challenges.
With Covid restrictions lifted, New Zealand football chief executive Andrew Pragnall hopes this will mark the start of more frequent home games.
“We are committed to playing more games in Aotearoa (New Zealand) for all our national teams,” Pragnall said.
“This game represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to see some of Aotearoa’s finest footballing talent who have developed and plied their craft overseas at the highest level.”