December 22, 2009
AUCKLAND – The All Whites will play CONCACAF Champions Mexico in Los Angeles on March 3 in the first of up to six warm up matches for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
The match against the fellow World Cup finalists will be played at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, the site of the 1994 FIFA World Cup final, in a midweek international window set aside for international friendlies.
The world number 17 will play the tournament’s opening game against the hosts South Africa, with a pair of previous World Cup winners in Uruguay and France, making up Group A. The All Whites are in Group F with Slovakia, Paraguay and World Champions Italy.
Herbert had been chasing South or Central American opposition to help prepare for New Zealand’s final group match against Paraguay in Polokwane on June 25 (NZT) and sees the opposition and location for the friendly as an ideal mix.
“I think with Paraguay in the group, a game against Mexico is ideal for us. A big name, a very strong team but a good opportunity to get our team back together in the only window leading up to the World Cup.”
“It’s a massive game, but it’s important to stretch ourselves leading into the World Cup but those elements: quality opposition, big crowds, playing away from home are all things we need to consider.”
Despite the small window for the game, Herbert was confident of his top players in from Australasia and the United Kingdom to join the handful of North American based All Whites.
“We like to think we’d be able to get the full squad but the logistics, travel times and geographic considerations are always going to be a factor. So to have the game at a midway point puts it more in our favour than if some players had to travel further.”
Mexico have now qualified for the World Cup 14 times, fewer than only Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina.
The only previous meeting between the two countries was won 4-0 by New Zealand at Bill McKinley Park in August 1980, with a 21 year old Herbert making his international debut. All Whites assistant coach Brian Tuner will also remember the game fondly having netted a brace of goals.
Meanwhile New Zealand Football were close to securing a World Cup base camp for All Whites base camp in a resort outside Johannesburg, hoping to sign the final paper work with FIFA over the holiday period.
The governing body and team management were also finalising plans for the rest of the All Whites build up program with more games to be announced in the New Year.