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N.Zealand face Australia in first home match in five years

Wellington (AFP) – New Zealand’s men’s football team will play in front of their home fans for the first time in nearly five years when they host Australia in a milestone friendly in September.

The All Whites face the Socceroos at Auckland’s Eden Park on September 25, marking the 100-year anniversary of the first international fixture between the neighbours.

It will be the rugby venue’s first senior football international, with the game falling one day after a Bledisloe Cup rugby Test between the nations there.

The Socceroos will also host New Zealand as part of a two-game series, with that date and venue to be decided. They have not played each other in more than a decade.

This week both nations will have thoughts only on World Cup qualifying.

Australia face the United Arab Emirates in an Asian playoff later Tuesday in Doha, with the winners to meet Peru on June 13 for a place at the World Cup Finals in Qatar later this year.

New Zealand play Costa Rica a day later, also in Qatar, to determine the 32nd and final team at the finals.

The All Whites’ last home international was a World Cup playoff against Peru in December 2017, a tie they ultimately lost.

New Zealand’s remoteness makes it difficult to convince strong opposition to travel, while the cost and logistics of summoning their largely overseas-based players adds further challenges.

With Covid restrictions lifting, New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnall hopes it will mark the start of more frequent home games.

“We made a commitment to play more games in Aotearoa (New Zealand) for all our national sides,” said Pragnall.

“This game represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to witness some of Aotearoa’s greatest football talent who have been developing and plying their trade abroad at the highest levels.”

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