The Socceroos will battle New Zealand ahead of the World Cup, Football Federation Australia (FFA) has announced, with the match acting as a farewell game ahead of South Africa at the MCG on May 24.
Fans and sections of the media have lamented the choice of New Zealand as an opponent, suggesting the Kiwis are well below the standard of World Cup Group D, in which Australia will face Ghana, Germany and Serbia.
FFA reportedly made attempts to get Croatia to Australia for the match, but the Croatian Federation could not guarantee a full strength team. Croatia is the highest ranked European side that will not compete at the World Cup.
The game follows the farewell blockbuster tradition set when the Qantas Socceroos played Greece before the 2006 FIFA World Cup at the MCG. Then, the European champions and a major draw in Melbourne, Greece was defeated by the Socceroos 1-0.
If ticket prices are reasonable, a big crowd will be expected to cheer on the Socceroos squad which is expected to include names such as captain Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Mark Schwarzer.
Despite having previously downplayed the quality of the A-League and that New Zealand is comprised mainly of A-League players, Socceroos Head Coach Pim Verbeek said the match would be a fantastic warm up for South Africa.
“We are expecting a very competitive match against the All Whites,” Verbeek said.
“The match will not only be an opportunity for the fans to farewell the Socceroos, but also for us to say thank you to the fans for supporting us through the qualification campaign.”