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New Zealand gets 2 friendlies prior to the OFC Nations Cup.

The New Zealand Federation just announced they have scheduled 2 friendlies in May in the United States as build-up to the team traveling to the Solomon Islands for the OFC Nations Cup. On May 23, the All-Whites will face El Salvador in Houston, Texas. Three days later they will face 2010 World Cup Participants Honduras in Dallas, Texas.  Credit goes to the NZF for getting these matches against quality competition that the team could face in the Intercontinental Playoff against the 4th-placed CONCACAF squad.

Below I have listed some quick information about the two nations. As these matches get closer, I will take a more in depth look at these teams and who to be on the look out for.

A look at the opponent: El Salvador

March FIFA ranking: 58

Elo Ranking: 70

Last 5 matches: 4 wins (@ Dominican Republic & Suriname, v. Cayman Islands & Suriname) 0 draws 1 Loss (v. Estonia)s

El Salvador is a nation on the rise, their February 2012 FIFA ranking of 54 is the highest this nation has ever been

This will be the first meeting between the two countries.

El Salvador have been to 2 World Cups (1970 and 1982), they were the first Central American country to reach the main event, but have only recorded 1 point from their 6 matches.

The team does not have a lot of individual talent, but is rather a sum-is-greater-than-the-parts team.

A look at the opponent: Honduras

March FIFA ranking: 63

Elo Ranking: 51

Last 5 matches: 2 wins (v. Jamaica & v. Serbia) 0 draws 3 losses (v. Paraguay, @ USA, & @Ecuador)

Record against New Zealand: 1 match, a 1-1 draw in 2010 in Auckland

The Catrachos have qualified for 2 World Cups, the same ones the All Whites have been to, the 1982 and 2010 versions. Ironically, they also have the same records in their 6 matches as New Zealand: 0 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses

This team does have a fair amount of individual talent, but goals are not free flowing from this squad.

In Other News…

Congratulations goes out to the New Zealand Women’s National Team, as the Football Ferns were able to win their OFC Nations Cup and book their ticket to the 2012 London Olympics.

The women’s route was a two leg playoff against Papua New Guinea. They won the first leg at home in Whangarei 8-0 and didn’t let up in the return leg in Port Moresby 7-0. Unlike the men’s Olympic tournament, which is for the U-23 squads, the Women’s version is for full national squads. There will be 12 of the world’s best teams placed in three groups, and the 3 group winners and runner ups will be joined by the two best 3rd best squads in the playoff rounds. The draw for the groups will take place on the 24th of this month.

In the English Championship, West Ham had a return of strong fortune, winning at Barnsley 4-0. This is important because Kiwi Winston Reid returned to the team and got the start, playing a full 90. West Ham sit in third, but are just 3 points behind 2nd place, which would give them automatic promotion back to the Premier League.

While they may not be playing for a playoff position, Burnley remain safe from being relegated. They have also signed 17-year old Dunedin native Cameron Howieson to a 2 and a half year contract recently and celebrated by coming on as a sub in the 84th minute of their 40th matchday 3-1 defeat at home to Birmingham City.

In the A-League playoffs this weekend, the Wellington Phoenix were knocked out 3-2 in extra time by Perth Glory. The Phoenix fell behind 1-0 at halftime, but were 2-1 up within the first 10 minutes of the second half, with goals from Chris Greenacre and Maltese defender Manny Muscat. Perth kept searching and tied it up in 72nd . The winner came in the 113th minute through substitute Todd Howerth.

Despite the loss, give credit to manager Ricki Herbert for trying to have his team in the best shape for this game. The distance from Wellington to Perth is over 5200 kilometers (roughly the same distance from London to Qatar!!!) So following their match against Sydney FC, they travelled to Sydney for practice and  to overcome some of the time differential.

Not all is bad for the Phoenix however, as the club just announced that they had come to an agreement with New Zealand International keeper Glen Moss for a three year contract. With Paston not signed past this season, this allows for some flexibility and might also allow Herbert a closer look at the top two choices for the All-Whites keeper position in the buildup to Brazil 2014.

While many of the other Kiwis are not getting much playing time in MLS, Andrew Boyens of LA Galaxy is still getting on the pitch for the defending champions. In Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Sporting Kansas City, he came on as a substitute in the 72nd minute as the Galaxy searched for an equalizer.

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