Six matches stand in the way of the All Whites as they try to become the third team to represent New Zealand at a FIFA World Cup finals.
They need to win a qualifying tournament so they can represent the Oceania region in a one-off qualifier against the fourth-best team from North & Central America & the Caribbean.
The route to Qatar 2022 has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic but, at last, New Zealand knows what it has to do and when to follow the legendary sides of 1982 and 2010.
Here’s your guide to the All Whites’ World Cup pathway:
Since taking over as national coach in 2019, Danny Hay has been restricted to friendly matches to help develop his World Cup squad.
With limited opportunities, Hay’s team has moved up the FIFA international rankings to 110, from 121st spot.
Here’s Hay’s record so far:
FIFA international ranking as at November 19, 2021, shown in brackets
v Republic of Ireland (47), lost 1-3, in Dublin.
v Lithuania (136), lost 0-1, in Vilnius.
v Curacao (80), won 2-1, in Manama.
v Bahrain (90), won 1-0, in Manama.
v Algeria A (not a full international fixture), won 2-1, in Dubai.
v The Gambia (151), won 2-0, in Dubai.
The next FIFA international window is from January 24-February 1, providing the opportunity for New Zealand to arrange two friendlies.
NZ Football is reportedly trying to secure games against teams ranked in the top 100 nations, with one from Asia and the other from Africa (but not involved in the Africa Nations Cup taking place at the same time). These games are expected to be staged in the United Arab Emirates.
Oceania Qualifying Tournament
The Oceania Football Confederation have decided their region’s qualifier will be the nation that wins an eight-team tournament held in Qatar between March 16 and March 30.
Problem is that FIFA’s international window runs only from March 21-29. This means the All Whites may have to play their first two group games without professional players such as Chris Wood and Sarpeet Singh whose clubs have important fixtures and are not obliged to make them available.
The tournament has two groups of four teams. After a round-robin of games, the top two teams in the groups will then play sudden-death semi-finals followed by a final.
New Zealand are drawn in Group B with New Caledonia (ranked 153), Fiji (161) and Papua New Guinea (164).
Group A contains Solomon Islands (141), Tahiti (159), Vanuatu (163) and the winner of a qualifying play-off between Tonga (199) and Cook Islands (unranked).
March 16: Group A, Match 1
March 17: Group B, Match 1
March 20: Group A, Match 2
March 21: Group B, Match 2
March 24: Group A, Match 3
March 24: Group B, Match 3
March 27: Semi-finals (winner Group A v runners-up Group B; winner Group B v runners-up Group A)
March 30: Final*
*It is anticipated that FIFA will agree to the final being played one day outside of their March international window.
June 14, 2022
If New Zealand can win the Oceania qualifying tournament, the All Whites will face a winner-takes-all showdown with whichever nation has finished fourth in the North & Central American and Caribbean qualifiers.
The match will be staged in Qatar on June 14.
After eight rounds of matches in the Concacaf qualifying series, standings are:
Six more matches are to be played, three in January and three in March.
Current FIFA international rankings are Canada (40), United States (12), Mexico (14), Panama (63), Costa Rica (49), Jamaica (57), El Salvador (69) and Honduras (76).
FIFA World Cup finals
Thirty-two nations will gather in Qatar to contest the World Cup finals.