AUCKLAND – The All Whites’ World Cup fate will be decided in Wellington after Westpac Stadium was chosen by New Zealand Football (NZF) as the venue for the crucial home leg of their intercontinental playoff against Bahrain or Saudi Arabia on November 14.
The two Middle East nations clash on September 5 and 9 with the All Whites meeting the winner on October 10 (away) and November 14 (home) for a place among the 32 nations in South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
New Zealand Football received formal bids from three venues – Westpac Stadium, North Harbour Stadium and Waikato Stadium – to host New Zealand’s home game, but NZF CEO Michael Glading said player preference and Westpac’s extra capacity ultimately gave it the edge over North Harbour Stadium, which has built a reputation as the home of football since 1997.
"All three bids were fantastic and had support from their respective city councils but it came down to a choice between Wellington and Auckland," Glading said.
"We’ve had a great relationship with North Harbour Stadium and it’s worth stressing that they didn’t take that for granted in their pitch for this game.
"However, with a match of this magnitude we need to give ourselves the best possible chance of qualifying. If players feel more comfortable in one venue and we can get an extra 8000 fans playing their part, that could just be the edge needed to realise the dream of reaching the World Cup again."
Sixteen members of the All Whites’ recent 23-man FIFA Confederations Cup squad have played club football in Wellington at some stage of their career.
The capacity of Westpac Stadium without temporary seating is 34,500 compared to 26,500 for North Harbour Stadium and 25,800 for Waikato Stadium.
Ticket sales are likely to go on sale by the end of July and Glading was confident of filling the stadium.
"Even in 1982, the final games of the campaign were played offshore, so this fixture is easily the most important football match ever played in New Zealand. The World Cup always captures the imagination of New Zealand sports fans and with our own team so close to qualifying, the country will be right behind the All Whites."
Story and photo courtesy of NZF Media
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