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New Zealand learn potential World Cup opponents

New Zealand celebrate scoring in the final of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Oceania Qualifiers. Credit: OFC Media

New Zealand now know the challenge that awaits them in the group stage of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ if they beat Costa Rica in their intercontinental play-off clash in June.

The winner of Costa-Rica v New Zealand, to take place in Qatar on June 14, have been drawn into Group E at the World Cup alongside Spain, Germany and Japan in the official final draw in Doha last Friday, April 1.

Spain and Germany will go into the tournament as  group favourites.

Spain are currently ranked number seven in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings and have won the World Cup previously, in 2010. Germany, meanwhile, have won the tournament on four occasions, most recently in 2014.

Of the two, Spain will fancy themselves the favourites, having won their most recent meeting 6-0 in a 2020/21 UEFA Nations League™ tie in November 2020. La Roja also won the two team’s previous World Cup clash, 1-0 in the semi-final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, which they went on to win overall.

Japan, meanwhile, cannot be discounted. The current number 23 side in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings qualified for Qatar by finishing above Australia, winning seven of their 10 games in total, in the AFC Third Round of qualification.

The Samurai Blue most recently faced New Zealand at senior level in October 2017, claiming a 2-1 win in an international friendly. Many of Danny Hay’s current crop of All Whites also faced Japan in the quarter-finals of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020, losing on penalties to the host nation.

New Zealand’s previous meeting with faced Spain was at the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009™, with Fernando Torres scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 win.

It was at the same competition, a decade earlier, that New Zealand faced Germany for the first and most recent time, at the FIFA Confederations Cup Mexico 1999™. On that occasion, Germany won 2-0, with goals from Michael Preetz and Lothar Matthäus doing the damage.

Of course, New Zealand must first overcome Costa Rica in their intercontinental play-off on June 14 – a tough challenge in itself for the OFC side.

But if they do, the reward will be a formidable and exciting challenge for the All Whites at their first World Cup since 2010.

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