Courtesy of New Zealand Football
New Zealand will kick off their FIFA World Cup 2026 cycle with two home games against China this March.
The team will play the first game at Mt Smart Stadium in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) on Thursday, March 23 (Kick-off 7.00pm NZT) and the second at Sky Stadium in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) on Sunday, March 26 (Kick-off 4.00pm NZT).
The games will be the first NZ fixtures at Mount Smart Stadium since 2014 and the first at Sky Stadium since 2017.
The side will be led by interim head coach Darren Bazeley.
New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell is excited to see the team in Aotearoa New Zealand again and to continue the momentum of recent home fixtures:
“Having our teams play at home is really important to us, the team, the fans and to continue building the game in New Zealand,” Pragnell said.
“Following the success of our September games against the Socceroos, and the record-breaking Ford Football Ferns series against the USA in January, we are really pleased to confirm these two home fixtures against China to kick off the new All Whites qualifying cycle.
“The year ahead looks exciting for the men’s programme. We will be hosting the Paris 2024 Olympics OFC qualification tournament for the men in New Zealand in September and have some incredible games in Europe in the works for the June, October and November windows.
“This will be, hands down, the best preparation the men’s team have had leading into a World Cup cycle and playing at home every year will enable the fans to engage like never before.
“We had planned to have the new permanent All Whites head coach in place for the March window, but due to a personal family situation for our leading candidate this wasn’t possible.
“We didn’t however want this to delay the team playing so want to thank Darren Bazeley for stepping up from U-20s head coach to take on the team on an interim basis.”
In addition, the NZ men’s U-23 side will also play a curtain raiser against China’s U-23 team before both fixtures. The U-23 side for this window will be coached by Wellington Phoenix’s Academy Director Paul Temple.