New Zealand Football say their “leading candidate” for the All Whites coaching job is not yet able to take up the role because of a “personal family situation”.
As a result, national U-20s coach Darren Bazeley will act as interim coach for the All Whites when they play China in a two-match series in March.
Main photo: Darren Bazeley … named as interim coach for the All Whites. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
The national U-23 side will also play curtain raisers against China’s U-23 team before both fixtures. The U-23 side for the March international window will be coached by Wellington Phoenix’s Academy Director Paul Temple.
NZ Football CEO Andrew Pragnell said:
“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.”
NZ Football’s statement says the candidate had “to manage a family health issue”.
Games at Mt Smart Stadium and Sky Stadium
The All Whites will play the first game against China at Mt Smart Stadium in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland on Thursday March 23 (kick off 7pm) and the second at Sky Stadium in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington on Sunday March 26 (kick off 4pm).
The games will be the first All Whites fixtures at Mt Smart since 2014 and the first at Sky Stadium since 2017.
Tickets for both games will go on presale at 10am on Thursday February 2 to New Zealand Football’s Football Whānau members and on general sale at 10am on Friday February 3.
Fans can sign up to join Football Whānau for free at nzfootball.co.nz to get access to the presale.
CEO Andrew Pragnell: ‘Year ahead looks exciting’
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.
“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.”
Darren Bazeley: ‘I’m honoured’
Interim head coach Darren Bazeley is looking forward to bringing the team home again and kicking off the next All Whites cycle:
“Everyone involved in last year’s game at Eden Park knew what a special moment it was for the team to be in New Zealand so I’m honoured to be given the chance to bring the squad back again.
“We know what a talented group of players we have and the whole team is excited to get the chance to show what they can do against a good opposition.
“This tour is also a great opportunity for our U-23 players to spend time with the senior squad to properly understand what it takes to be an All White. It’s a great chance for players from both squads to meet knowing that, should we qualify, a number of our senior players will form part of our Olympic side.”
Game to be played on Thursday March 23, 2023
New Zealand v China
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland (7pm)
Game to be played on Sunday March 26, 2023
New Zealand v China
Sky Stadium, Wellington (4pm)