Newcastle United have named three of their four World Cup stars in a near full strength 26-man squad to tour New Zealand next month.
France fullback Mathieu Debuchy, Netherlands goalkeeper Tim Krul and Ivory Coast midfielder Cheik Tiote have all been included.
While that is no guarantee the trio will board a plane Down Under, it bodes well for Kiwi football fans eager to see world-class talent in the flesh.
English Premier League club Newcastle play Sydney FC in Dunedin on July 22 and the Phoenix in Wellington on July 26 as part of the four-team Football United Tour also featuring West Ham United.
Whether Debuchy, Krul and Tiote make the trip hinges on how far their countries progress at the World Cup. France (3-0 v Honduras), Netherlands (5-1 v Spain) and Ivory Coast (2-1 v Japan) all made impressive starts to the tournament. The World Cup final is on July 14.
Other familiar names included in the touring party are creative midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, who has 13 caps for France, and Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini, who has 38 caps for Argentina.
As of Monday, 22,000 tickets had been sold for the doubleheader at Westpac Stadium, with 10,000 snapped up for July 23's Phoenix-West Ham clash at Auckland's Eden Park and 6000 for Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Meanwhile, Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said he was not concerned that the club would get left behind by the likes of big-spending A-League rivals Melbourne City, now owned by EPL champions Manchester City.
Melbourne City will have Spain's record goalscorer David Villa on loan for the first 10 games of the 2014-15 season and they have also signed Irish star Damien Duff.
Merrick is on the hunt for an attacking midfielder and striker to replace Carlos Hernandez and Stein Huysegems.
"David Villa would have fitted in just nicely, thank you ... [but] the board has been very supportive," Merrick said. "It's a good budget and we've got the money to get the right players."
Merrick declined comment on the club's pursuit of All Whites midfielder Michael McGlinchey.
Newcastle United touring squad: Jak Alnwick, Sammy Ameobi, Vurnon Anita, Adam Armstrong, Hatem Ben Arfa, Gael Bigirimana, Adam Campbell, Jack Colback, Fabricio Coloccini, Mathieu Debuchy, Paul Dummett, Robert Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Yoan Gouffran, Jonas Gutierrez, Massadio Haidara, Tim Krul, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Ayoze Perez, Davide Santon, James Tavernier, Steven Taylor, Cheik Tiote, Michael Williamson, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
- The Dominion Post
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