New Zealand’s footballers clinched the last Fifa Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 spot with a 3-1 win over New Caledonia at the weekend, which gave them an unassailable lead at the top of the Oceania Football Confederation standings.
The win enabled the New Zealanders to join an illustrious line-up comprising of European champions Spain, South American champions Brazil, reigning world champions Italy, Asian champions Iraq, CONCACAF champions United States, African champions Egypt and hosts South Africa who will compete in the Fifa Confederations Cup from June 14 to June 28 next year.
The tournament, dubbed the ‘Festival of Champions’ as it pits the champions of the six Fifa Confederations, the reigning world champions and the next Fifa World Cup hosts against each other, will take place at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park, Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, Tshwane/Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld and Mangaung/Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium next year as a precursor to the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“We would like to congratulate New Zealand on reaching the Fifa Confederations Cup and on joining a tournament that will feature some of the most illustrious players in world football today,” said the OC’s Chief Executive Officer Danny Jordaan.
“South Africa has a long sporting history with New Zealand, largely due to the epic clashes between our Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks on the rugby field. Now, however, we look forward to welcoming the All Whites on our football fields.”
In addition to topping the Oceania qualifying group, New Zealand have now also earned the right to play off against the side that finishes fifth in the Asian preliminaries for a place at the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa. The two-legged playoff takes place on November 14 and November 21, 2009.
Dr Jordaan had a word of caution for the New Zealanders, though, as they take their place among world football’s elite – albeit for a fortnight during the FIFA Confederations Cup.
“The All Whites won’t have it easy, as they will potentially be up against the likes of Spain’s Fernando Torres and Francesc Fabregas, Italy’s Andrea Pirlo and Luca Toni or Brazil’s Kaka and Robinho. The Confederations Cup is really shaping up as a mouthwatering appetizer for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and we look forward to giving the world a taste of what’s to come. All the games will take place at existing stadia, which are well on their way to being upgraded in good time ahead of next year’s tournament and preparations for FIFA’s first major event on South African soil are going extremely well indeed,” said Dr Jordaan.
The Official Draw for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on November 2009, with the tickets sale for the tournament starting the following day.