Mariners to host New Caledonia in final pre-season hit out

The Central Coast Mariners will host New Caledonia at Budgewoi’s Frank Millington Oval at 10am tomorrow, Friday, 17 August, in their final competitive hit out ahead of their third Hyundai A-League


New Caledonia, who are in Australia preparing for this months Oceania 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Samoa, will challenge the Mariners with their full-strength line up, made up almost entirely
of players from the local New Caledonian Division d’Honneur.


The match will be the second the Mariners have played against international opposition this year, having defeated recent AFC Asian Cup co-hosts Malaysia 3-0 at Lisarow’s Pluim Park in late May.


New Caledonia, who are ranked 178th in the world by FIFA – 23 places below Malaysia, will be hoping to show some form ahead of this month’s qualifiers, which will be the first in the world aiming
towards the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.


Ranked fifth in Oceania, New Caledonia will need to finish first, second or third at this month’s South Pacific Games to progress to the final stage of Oceania FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, which will
see the region’s three best island nations take on New Zealand over six rounds between October 2007 and September 2008.

“We’re delighted to welcome the members of the New Caledonian national team to the Central Coast for this very valuable fixture and must also recognise the co-operation of Budgewoi Football Club in
staging this very unique event,” said Mariners Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman.

“Match practice ahead of our season opener against Sydney FC is absolutely crucial, and we’re very thankful to New Caledonia for allowing Lawrie McKinna and our coaching staff an opportunity to
test our charges one more time.”

Most recently, New Caledonia recorded a 5-3 win and a 2-0 loss against regional rivals Vanuatu in a two-match series in Noumea, before relocating to Australia to fine tune their FIFA World Cup

Home to a little over 240,000 people over several picturesque south pacific islands, football is the national sport of the French overseas territory, and the national team has delivered some
moderate successes since being officially recognised by FIFA in 2004.

Interestingly, Mariners defender Nigel Boogaard and midfielder Tom Pondeljak have experience against New Caledonia previously.

Boogaard was part of the Joeys (Under 17’s) side that defeated New Caledonia 7-1 on aggregate over two legs in Noumea to earn a berth at the FIFA Under 17 World Cup in Finland in 2003.

Pondeljak was part of the Socceroos squad at the 2002 OFC Nations Cup in Auckland, but did not feature in their group match against New Caledonia, where the Australians triumphed 11-0.

Aside from the absence of Danny Vukovic and Bradley Porter, who are in Qatar with Australia’s Olympic Games hopefuls, the Mariners will be at full strength for the fixture – their last before the
opening match of the Hyundai A-League season away to Sydney FC on Friday, 24 August.

“New Caledonia are obviously gearing up for some very big matches in the coming weeks and we know that they’ll provide us with the test that we’re after,” said Gorman.

“We’re extremely confident that our pre-season is well on track and hopefully this match will well and truly get rid of any of the cobwebs that may exist in our game.”

The Mariners will take on New Caledonia at Budgewoi’s Frank Millington Field tomorrow, Friday, 17 August. Kick off is at 10am and admission is free.