NZ Football playing cards too close to chest

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 18:34 26/07/2013

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The silence out of New Zealand Football headquarters has been deafening as the clock ticks down to November's World Cup qualifiers.

The biggest news of late was chief executive Grant McKavanagh's shock resignation. The All Whites are inactive while their Concacaf opponents continue to sharpen their game through a rigorous qualification series.

The All Whites have played just two games this year, both against Oceania opposition, and the second was a dead rubber with the top players missing.

Organising regular internationals has always been an issue for NZF, for financial and geographical reasons.

The situation has been exacerbated this year because of last year's failure at the Oceania Nations Cup, which cost them $1.8 million and a berth at this year's Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Worryingly, there are still no warmup games confirmed for the international windows in August, September and October.

NZF high performance manager Fred de Jong said there was now a "high likelihood" that the August window would pass the All Whites by.

However, the plan was to play two games in September and another two in October.

The All Whites then play a home-and-away qualifier against the fourth-ranked side from Concacaf (North, Central American and Caribbean).

The away game is on November 15 before the home leg at Wellington's Westpac Stadium on November 20.

The winner advances to next year's World Cup in Brazil and will earn a windfall of about $10m.

"We haven't signed any contracts, we're close on a contract at the moment for September," de Jong said.

"We are still in negotiations for October. We're trying to get as many Concacaf opponents as we can so we're trying to work through that. The ideal would have been to go to the Confederations Cup and you really feel that pain now. The ability to get games on the back of the Confederations Cup, as we saw four years ago, is a lot easier.

"At the moment you've got to work that much harder to put a campaign together and it's way more expensive. That's the price of missing out in Honiara."

De Jong met All Whites coach Ricki Herbert and assistant Brian Turner in Auckland yesterday to try to firm up their plans.

He hoped two games would be against Concacaf opponents while a September tournament in Saudi Arabia was a possibility.

The NZF brains trust had sharpened their focus to preparing for Honduras and Panama as their most likely opponents come November.

Andrew Durante's eligibility is expected to be cleared up shortly, with his case heard by Fifa on Wednesday.

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"We're expecting a response any day now. Fingers crossed," de Jong said.

McKavanagh's surprise departure had not been a disruption to the All Whites' plans, de Jong said.

It had been "business as usual" under interim chief executive Mark Aspden.

De Jong, a former general manager of StayinFront Asia-Pacific, laughed off suggestions he had been lined up for the chief executive role.

"Flattered people think of me in that role but at this stage, that's down the track. It wouldn't be like that, the board will go through a process. It will be open, transparent, otherwise you just leave yourself completely open to accusations which would be really damaging."

- Fairfax Media

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