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Italy match highlight of NZ's schedule

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Italy match highlight of NZ's schedule Empty Italy match highlight of NZ's schedule

Post by Admin on Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:57 pm

Confirmation of a Confederations Cup warm-up match with World Cup holders Italy has handed Ricki Herbert and his All Whites another chance to rub shoulders with one of the world's best footballing nations.

The Italians, ranked fourth on Fifa's latest list, will be the third of three opponents the All Whites will play before tackling world No 1 Spain in their first match at June's Confederations Cup in South Africa.

New Zealand Football has done well in arranging matches against Tanzania, in Dar es Salaam on June 3, Botswana in Garborone three days later and Italy in the Pretoria township of Atteridgeville on June 10.

"It is another coup and a big challenge," said Herbert of the game against Italy. "Italy then Spain, it is not often you get the chance to play teams like this back to back. It is a big opportunity when looking ahead to the World Cup qualifiers later in the year."

It is not the first time New Zealand have been given the chance to punch above their weight. In 2006 the All Whites were Brazil's only lead-up opposition ahead of the World Cup. The South Americans won 4-0 in Geneva but New Zealand emerged from the game with some credit.

"That's massive. This year is all about having time with the players," he said. "If I'm honest, the priority this year is the World Cup but, at the same time, I'm mindful we have never won a point at a Confederations Cup."

The games against the African nations will be a good lead-in to the match against Italy.

Tanzania are ranked 103rd in the world - about where New Zealand were before their surge up to their current 79th. The Africans have been as high as 70 and as low as 172. In 2007 they were up to 89.

Botswana have yet to break into the top 100. Currently 121, they have been up to 101 (in 2005) and as low as 165 (in 1999).

The Italians offer a different challenge. "It is important to play big nations on the world stage," said Herbert. "All credit to Italy for accepting the match."

CUP PROGRAMME:

New Zealand Confederations Cup buildup
June 3: v Tanzania, Dar es Salaam
June 6: v Botswana, Garborone
June 10: v Italy, Atteridgeville, Pretoria

Confederations Cup
(South Africa)
June 15: v Spain, Rustenburg
June 18: v S Africa, Rustenburg
June 21: v Iraq, Johannesburg

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/soccer/news/article.cfm?c_id=86&objectid=10565101
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