10 Sep 2020

All Whites availability for England in limbo

3:10 pm on 10 September 2020

All Whites coach Danny Hay is unsure which players will be available for New Zealand's first game against England in nearly 30 years.

New Zealand's WInston Reid and Peru's Jefferson Farfan.

The All Whites face a busy end to 2020. Photo: Photosport

The All Whites will take on the world's fourth ranked football side at Wembley in London in November but Hay said some his key players would not be taking the field - including captain Winston Reid.

"One thing that is looking really challenging is trying to get players out of the States or back into the States and they are in the midst of the MLS season, players from this part of the world very difficult as well, so it would have to be primarily European based and there's even challenges inside Europe with some nations putting quarantine restrictions on the players when they come back into their countries," Hay said.

However, Hay expected Burnley striker Chris Wood would be available.

The match will be part of England's build up to their UEFA Cup matches against Belgium and Iceland and the tie has been confirmed by the Football Association, however, it will be played behind-closed-doors because of Covid-19 restrictions

Chris Wood celebrates scoring a goal for Burnley in the 2020 EPL season. 
Downloaded 6 August 2020

Chris Wood. Photo: AFP

New Zealand have played England twice before - both games in 1991 - at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland which England won 1-nil while the other match was in Wellington at Athletic Park which England won 2-nil.

The Wembley match will be played on 12 November and will follow the All Whites match against world number one Belgium on 9 October.

Hay credited the work of New Zealand based FIFA match agent Rob Pickstock had done behind the scenes building relationships with match agents over several years to even get a fixture like this off the ground.

"Covid has been a little bit of a benefit because these European nations wouldn't have been forced to play three games in each window but as it stands with UEFA trying to make things very fair and they're saying they want to play three games of which two are part of the Nations League and then it obviously leaves one spare for a number of them so we've taken advatage of that," Hay said.

"We just keep our fingers crossed that they absolutely go ahead."

Getting at least two games in each of the windows in October and November was Hay's priority and he said work was being done to secure further matches.

New Zealand, are ranked 122nd in the world, and are also set to play Mexico and the United States.

"Playing a team of the stature of England will be a real test for the squad but this is the kind of challenge we want," Hay said.

"The players want to test themselves, they want to know where our strengths and weaknesses lie as well and really test ourselves to what we need to develop and improve on leading into meaningful proper games that are going to be coming very very soon in terms of the World Cup qualifiers and then hopefully in 2022 those Intercontinential play offs."