All Whites coach Anthony Hudson is pleased to have his team’s warm-up fixtures confirmed for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
The national team, who confirmed last week they will play World No 72 Belarus on 12 June in Minsk, will play an international against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in Belfast on 2 June and then play a club side in Dublin in a closed game on 7 June before they travel to St Petersburg.
Hudson said the World No 35 Northern Ireland, who qualified for the final 16 of the European Championship last year, would present a great challenge as they get ready for the ‘Tournament of Champions’.
“We’re really pleased with our fixtures leading into the FIFA Confederations Cup,” said Hudson.
“It was great to announce Belarus during the week and we are pleased to have confirmed a game against a top team like Northern Ireland who were very impressive during the Euros last year. We know it will be a really good test in front of their home fans, we are looking forward to it.”
The Michael O’Neill-managed Northern Ireland enjoyed a fine run of results in 2016. In March, they defeated Slovenia (1-0), drew with Wales (1-1) and in May defeated Belarus 3-0. At the European Championship, they narrowly lost to FIFA World Cup Champions Germany (1-0), defeated Ukraine 2-0, lost to Poland (1-0) and drew with Slovakia (0-0) to make the final 16 where they lost 1-0 to Wales after a Gareth McAuley own goal.
Hudson, the son of England great Alan Hudson, is looking forward to returning to the United Kingdom with his team.
“This gives us the chance to play top quality opposition and logistically it suits us as we get the games we need and don’t waste any time with extra travel,” he said.
“Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are great places to tour and this camp will give us great preparation for Russia. The key for us is now we have a good amount of time together to help us prepare for the tournament. We are really looking forward to these fixtures.”
In 2016, the OFC Nations Cup Champions lost 2-1 to World No 17 Mexico in Nashville and then drew 1-1 with the World No 29 USA in Washington before returning home to claim four points against New Caledonia in Stage Three of the OFC Qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They travel to Russia with high hopes.
“We are not going to the Confederations Cup just to take part, we are going there to upset teams,” said Hudson.
The All Whites will play hosts Russia in the opening game of the tournament on 17 June before facing Mexico on 21 June and then Portugal on 24 June.
All Whites fixtures pre-FIFA Confederations Cup
2 June v Northern Ireland in Belfast, Northern Ireland
7 June v Club side (closed game) in Dublin, Republic of Ireland
12 June v Belarus, Minsk, Belarus
2017 FIFA Confederations Cup – All Whites draw
17 June 6pm (3am 18 June NZT) v Russia, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
21 June 9pm (6am 22 June NZT) v Mexico Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
24 June 6pm (3am 25 June NZT) v Portugal, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg