World body launches scheme to help boost lower-ranked football nations

posted in: News, OFC news

Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea will play intercontinental friendlies in a new FIFA Series pilot project in March.

The project aims to help develop lower-ranking football nations.

The FIFA Series will see world football’s governing body support its member associations in organising international friendly matches comprising four national teams from different confederations in a single host country.

The initiative will provide member associations with a more regular opportunity to face national teams from other continents, which will serve to unlock technical development opportunities previously unavailable to many of them.

The fixture list has yet to be finalised but Vanuatu, ranked 170 in the FIFA rankings will compete in a series in Saudi Arabia with Bermuda (171, Concacaf), Brunei Darussalam (194, AFC) and Guinea (76, CAF).

Main photo: Vanuatu’s George Chichirua celebrates his goal in the 2023 OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier against Tonga. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Papua New Guinea, ranked 165, will play in a series with hosts Sri Lanka (204, AFC), Bhutan (184, AFC) and Central African Republic (129, CAF)

The FIFA Series will also provide the participating member associations with their own additional commercial opportunities and exposure.

Ahead of the full roll-out in March 2026, the pilot project will run from March 18-26, 2024.

The March edition of the FIFA Series will feature national teams from all six confederations, and future instalments are planned during every March international match window of even years.

The FIFA Series pilot phase in March 2024 will involve the following teams:

FIFA Series: Algeria
Algeria (CAF)
Andorra (UEFA)
Bolivia (CONMEBOL)
South Africa (CAF)

FIFA Series: Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan (UEFA)
Bulgaria (UEFA)
Mongolia (AFC)
Tanzania (CAF)

FIFA Series: Saudi Arabia A
Cabo Verde (CAF)
Cambodia (AFC)
Equatorial Guinea(CAF)
Guyana (Concacaf)

FIFA Series: Saudi Arabia B
Bermuda (Concacaf)
Brunei Darussalam (AFC)
Guinea (CAF)
Vanuatu (OFC)

FIFA Series: Sri Lanka
Bhutan (AFC)
Central African Republic (CAF)
Papua New Guinea (OFC)
Sri Lanka (AFC)

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said:

“The FIFA Series is a really positive step forward for national-team football at global level.

“Our member associations have been telling us for a long time now of their desire to test themselves against their counterparts from all around the world, and now they can do so within the current men’s international match calendar.

“More meaningful matches will enable far more valuable footballing interaction for players, teams and fans, and will make a concrete contribution to the development of the game.”

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