The Football United Tour of New Zealand has received a late boost with the last-minute inclusion of Newcastle United duo Cheick Tiote and Emmanuel Riviere.
Tiote, Newcastle's co-vice captain, is a midfielder who started in all three of Ivory Coast's World Cup games last month.
Riviere is a French striker who signed yesterday in a £6 million (NZ$11.82 million) move from Monaco.
He scored 10 goals in Ligue 1 last season but was stuck behind James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Dimitar Berbatov in Monaco's pecking order.
Tiote and Riviere were added to Newcastle's touring party yesterday as replacements for Olivier Kemen and Adam Campbell.
There is also a possibility that World Cup players Enner Valencia (West Ham United) and Remy Cabella (Newcastle) could join their new English Premier League clubs in New Zealand for next week's four-team tournament hosted by the Wellington Phoenix and also including Sydney FC.
Valencia scored all three of Ecuador's World Cup goals and completed a £12million move to the Hammers yesterday.
West Ham, featuring All Whites star Winston Reid, arrive in Auckland today, with Newcastle landing in Dunedin tomorrow ahead of Tuesday's tour-opener against Sydney at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Phoenix general manager David Dome was pleased with the quality of the touring parties, with Newcastle's World Cup trio Tim Krul, Moussa Sissoko (both resting) and Mathieu Debuchy (transferred to Arsenal) the major omissions.
"We've been extremely comfortable from day one that West Ham are bringing a full strength team and that's exactly what they're bringing," Dome said.
"Krul wanted to have some time off, Debuchy has gone to Arsenal, Tiote didn't make it past the pool round so it was just a case of looking at each player individually. Krul will stay at home but Tiote wanted to come.
"Newcastle have confirmed they're going to have a very strong team including [Fabricio] Coloccini, their Argentinian captain, Tiote, Yoan Gouffran, Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa who's played senior [internationals] for France.
"They're also going to bring out their new [co]-vice-captain, Siem de Jong, who was Ajax captain last year. So it's going to be a really good, strong team and a good mix of hardened first-team professionals and a few of these young, exciting players that they've just recently signed."
Dome said almost 9000 tickets had been sold for Dunedin, and he was expecting a crowd of between 10-15,000.
Sales for Wednesday's game between West Ham and the Phoenix in Auckland had ticked over 13,000 and Dome predicted a crowd of 20-21,000 at Eden Park.
He is tipping a sell-out crowd of 32,000 at Wellington's Westpac Stadium for next Saturday's double-header, with 27,000 tickets sold so far.
Dome said he would be happy if the tour broke even financially.
"It was never about the money, part of it was we realised that if we're going to take this club to the next level, we've got to do something different.
"We have to engage with the fans and engage with the sporting public of New Zealand, shake it up a bit and do something a little bit different that no other sport can do, which is bringing out famous old clubs from England.
"That's part of it, part of it is also to give [Phoenix coach] Ernie [Merrick] a really strong pre-season buildup to the next A-League season. Two EPL teams is pretty good buildup for Ernie."
Dome said "thousands" of people had already pre-purchased the games on Sky Arena pay-per-view.
"And the Sky guys tells us that pay-per-view is mostly purchased on the day."
AT A GLANCE
Newcastle touring party: Rolando Aarons, Mehdi Abeid, Jak Alnwick, Sammy Ameobi, Vurnon Anita, Adam Armstrong, Jack Colback, Fabricio Coloccini, Siem de Jong, Paul Dummett, Rob Elliot, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara, Ayoze Perez, Lubomir Satka, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Haris Vuckic, Mike Williamson, Freddie Woodman, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Emmanuel Riviere, Cheick Tiote
Maybe: Remy Cabella (new signing)
West Ham touring party: Mo Diame, Winston Reid, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Aaron Cresswell, Diego Poyet, Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole, James Tomkins, Matt Jarvis, Dan Potts, Cheikhou Kouyate, Andy Carroll, Sam Howes, Mauro Zarate, Stewart Downing, Daniel Whitehead, Ricardo Vaz Te, Adrian, Matthias Fanimo, Mark Noble, Joey O'Brien, Leo Chambers, James Collins, Guy Demel.
Maybe: Enner Valencia (new signing)
Today, 1.30pm: West Ham official welcome at Sky City, Auckland
Tomorrow, midday: Newcastle official welcome at Dunedin Airport
Tuesday, 7.30pm: Newcastle v Sydney FC, Dunedin
Wednesday, 7.30pm: West Ham v Phoenix, Auckland
Saturday, 2pm and 4.30pm: West Ham v Sydney; Newcastle v Phoenix, Wellington
- The Dominion Post
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