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New Zealand opts out of England friendly, citing COVID-19 concerns

The All Whites were scheduled to face England on November 12 at Wembley
The All Whites were scheduled to face England on November 12 at Wembley
Vyshakh K
Modified 14 Oct 2020, 17:44 IST

New Zealand has withdrawn from next month's international friendly against England at Wembley due to complications in travel and player availability caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Gareth Southgate's side was due to host the All Whites at an empty Wembley Stadium on November 12, before their Nations League fixture against Belgium three days later. The FA will announce a new opponent as a replacement in due course.

New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell said it's too difficult to field a team during the current circumstances. He stated:

"It is not an action taken lightly, this is a match we all wanted to play, however as it stands of the last All Whites squad selected for the November 2019 tour, even excluding the New Zealand based players, a significant number of the team would be subject to quarantine or restrictions on their return home. This would heavily disrupt their domestic seasons and potentially jeopardise their professional careers."
"The shifting nature of travel restrictions and commercial flight availability under Covid means that we do not have the certainty we could assemble a squad at Wembley on this day and defaulting on this fixture at the last minute is not an option.", he added.

New Zealand head coach Danny Hay was disappointed about the high-profile fixture's cancellation, saying:

"We all want to be playing more games but coming up against one of the top sides in the world with a heavily understrength team doesn't do anything to help our long-term development".
England  will host Denmark next this Saturday
England will host Denmark next this Saturday

The Three Lions will host Denmark this Saturday after two successive victories while New Zealand is yet to play an international game in 2020.

Their proposed friendlies against Bahrain and Oman in March were also scrapped owing to the same reasons. The All Whites will return to action only next year, when the 2022 World Cup qualifiers begin in March 2021.

The current round of international fixtures has seen a surge in coronavirus cases, with Portuguese star forward Cristiano Ronaldo testing positive as well.

Published 14 Oct 2020, 17:44 IST
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