The All Whites' 2018 World Cup aspirations will face an early, and very deliberate, test over the next four months.
With New Zealand Football anticipating the World Cup qualifying process which will revert Oceania back to an intercontinental playoff against an Asian team (as it was when the All Whites qualified for the 2010 World Cup) as opposed to a Concacaf team (as it was last year), chief executive Andy Martin says a much more direct and targeted strategy can be formed.
Next month the All Whites will face Uzbekistan in Tashkent in what could be new coach Anthony Hudson's first game in charge, should visa requirements be met in time.
Last week Fifa also pre-emptively added two further fixtures to the All Whites schedule - November dates away to China on the 14th and Malaysia on the 18th.
It's not the first time Fifa has let the cat out of the bag and Martin says while confirmation of the games could yet be a couple of weeks away, he sees no reason why they won't go through.
"Yes, within the next two weeks, hopefully sooner," Martin said.
"It absolutely will be Asia. It will be November and those two dates, we just need to lock them down to the point where we can announce them.
"I don't think it's unusual [for games to be added early to Fifa's online fixtures]. It seems to be driven by agents and when they're putting games together, they'll register them. It seems as though it gets close and these things happen. They shouldn't, but they do, and we end up answering questions when we're not quite ready."
Martin also says the trio of games have intentionally targeted Asian-based opponents - just as their search for a new national men's team manager did with former Bahrain boss Hudson unveiled as the new All Whites manager last week.
"Definitely, that's part of the reason why Anthony is in the seat. He knows that part of the world well and has played against these teams before," Martin said.
"We had games lined up before Anthony was here but we've obviously run them through him and part of the final sign-off is making sure that we're comfortable it fits with what he wants to do and what we want to do in terms of the qualification route.
"So, everything all looks bang-on and the programme is to be as full as possible and as in line with the qualification route as possible - which is probably going to be known in March next year."
Hudson has already outlined his sole priority in taking the Kiwi job is achieving qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
He also says he wants the All Whites to play a more positive and aggressive style of football.
"I want to go to the World Cup. I want to make history with the All Whites by going further than we've ever gone," Hudson said at a press conference today.
"Overall, just a real positive and aggressive manner to how we approach games. That style of play will colour everything we do.
"You will see a team that goes out to try to win games by being organised, incredibly organised."
- Sunday News
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