All Whites likely to play again in March

The All Whites will likely play again in the next international window. Photo: Getty Images
The All Whites will likely play again in the next international window. Photo: Getty Images
The All Whites are likely to return to action in the Middle East next March.

The recent matches against Ireland and Lithuania ended a long period of hibernation for the national team, and New Zealand Football have been working on plans for the next Fifa window in four months (March 23-31).

They have been canvassing options in Europe and North America, but the New Zealand Herald understands the most probable option is the Middle East, where the team has played a number of matches over the last three decades.

Europe has the advantage of high profile games and strong opposition, as well as easy journeys for the team's most important players, but it's a tough trip for New Zealand and Australian-based players.

North America, especially the east coast, has advantages, but most of the big teams in that region (and central America) will be seeking games in Europe next March.

The Middle East is an ideal hub, with generally one flight in for players, wherever they are based in the world.

Oman appeals as a likely option, as the respective federations have a strong relationship and the two nations have met on six occasions since 1996, including a rare non-Oceania win during Anthony Hudson's tenure (1-0 in 2015).

Other recent opponents Uzbekistan and Bahrain also have vacant slots during that window, and could be in the mix.

"We are very close to tying down a couple of fixtures [for March]," said All Whites coach Danny Hay.

"Ideally we would love to be playing in New Zealand but people understand there are some real implications around that and it is difficult to make it happen financially. You need to try to bring two teams down. We would love to play at home, [but] it looks like we will be overseas again.

"There are options in Europe, the [United] States and the Middle East and [any] of those would be good. We just need games at a decent level, a good calibre where we get tested. The more that this group plays together, we [can] start to refine things and find out who we move forward with...that's ultimately what it comes down to."

The All Whites broke camp on Monday morning (local time) for their various destinations around the world.

Hay was awake until the early hours meeting with his coaching staff, taking a rare opportunity to spend time with them before he heads home, and analysing the footage from the Ireland and Lithuania games.

"The trip did exactly what it was meant to and we found out a lot about players," said Hay

"It's answered some questions for us and we move forward with a lot more clarity for the March window."

Hay and his coaching team will send out individual video packages to each squad member, to highlight their play from the recent games and reinforce what is expected going forward.

"I don't want to be too hard on them, we had three or four days training," said Hay. "It's more around constant education, more info around the style of play."

Hay emphasized the door was not closed on anyone, though some had enhanced their prospects over the last week.

"Some players really stood up," said Hay. "The likes of Joe Bell, where probably the New Zealand football public didn't really know that well, coming from an American university.

"Even some of our senior players didn't know some of these guys and may have come into this a bit sceptical about them."

"But a player like him has really enhanced his reputation, clearly shown he is capable of playing at this level in international football."

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