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New Zealand withdraw from England friendly due to COVID-19 complications

Phil Egan
Phil Egan

09:34 14 Oct 2020


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New Zealand Football have confirmed that they are withdrawing from their international friendly against England next month due to further travel and player availability complications caused by Covid-19.

England were due to host the All Whites at Wembley on November 12th but NZF say the game could "potentially jeopardise" their players' careers.

NZF CEO Andrew Pragnell said:

"It is with deep regret that we have been forced to cancel our participation in the upcoming match against England at Wembley.

"It is not an action taken lightly, this is a match we all wanted to play, however, as it stands of the last All Whites squad selected for the November 2019 tour, even excluding the New Zealand based players, a significant number of the team would be subject to quarantine or restrictions on their return home.

"This would heavily disrupt their domestic seasons and potentially jeopardise their professional careers.

"The shifting nature of travel restrictions and commercial flight availability under Covid means that we do not have certainty we could assemble a squad at Wembley on this day and defaulting on this fixture at the last minute is not an option.

"Prior to Covid we had a full calendar of fixtures planned for the All Whites, and we have been proactive in seeking out matches for the team since the disruption, but unfortunately it just isn’t possible to make the new games we have scheduled this year happen.

"We are now looking forward to the March 2021 international window as we begin our qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2022."

New Zealand have not played an international match since their friendly defeat by Lithuania last November, which came three days after a 3-1 loss to the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

The friendly in Dublin was a first international for the All Whites in 525 days.

Friendlies against Oman and Bahrain, scheduled for March of this year, were cancelled because of restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Zealand manager Coach Danny Hay said:

"I’m gutted, and I know the players will also be, but this is one of those situations we can’t do anything about.

"We always knew when planning for these fixtures that certain players would be unavailable but looking at the restrictions currently in place, as well as the rising number of Covid-19 cases across Europe, it just isn’t possible to put a competitive squad together.

"We all want to be playing more games but coming up against one of the top sides in the world with a heavily understrength team doesn’t do anything to help our long-term development."

The international games played across Europe in October have seen several players ruled out due to coronavirus and it remains to be seen what impact it will have on the major European leagues as players return to their clubs.


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