NZF secure games with Japan for men, women

Last updated 19:18 12/12/2013

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New Zealand Football has pulled off a coup by securing men's and women's internationals against powerhouse Japan next year.

The All Whites' fixture in Tokyo on March 5 honours an agreement to reschedule an international friendly from which New Zealand reluctantly withdrew due to safety concerns after the tragic earthquake that struck the country in 2011.

"Given the empathy New Zealanders felt, and still feel for what their country went through in the tragedy of 2011 it was a tough decision, albeit the right one, to pull out of the match," New Zealand Football high performance manager Fred de Jong said.

''And it's great now three years later to be able to restore the fixture to the calendar.''

World Cup-bound Japan are ranked 48 in the world.

New Zealand's women's team, the Football Ferns, will play against world champions Japan in Osaka on May 8.

The two teams have played four times since 2008, with Japan winning twice and two draws.

De Jong says both fixtures are important.

"The Ferns have been making impressive progress towards their goals of being present at the business end of the 2015 Fifa women's World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics and the support from High Performance Sport New Zealand helps us give them the diet they need of top quality matches like this one. We won't be in Brazil next year, so our All Whites programme shifts focus towards Russia 2018 and what the shape of that team will be."

De Jong said it was too early to say whether a permanent head coach would be in place for the All Whites' game in March.

A review of the unsuccessful 2014 World Cup campaign is underway.

"The review will influence what the role looks like when we advertise but regardless of whether it's the permanent or interim coach in charge in March, the match is a valuable opportunity for the All Whites programme,'' de Jong said.

Fixtures:

Japan v All Whites: National Olympic Stadium, Tokyo (March 5)

Japan v Football Ferns: Kincho Stadium, Osaka (May 8)

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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