Kiwis cancel game against England, cites COVID-19 concerns

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has canceled a game against England at Wembley next month because of travel difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell issued a statement Wednesday saying a significant number of players would have been be subject to quarantine on returning home from the Nov. 12 game and that would “heavily disrupt their domestic seasons and potentially jeopardize their professional careers.”

“This is a match we all wanted to play, however … the shifting nature of travel restrictions and commercial flight availability under COVID means that we do not have 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 said.

Pragnell said the national men’s team’s next game would likely be in the international window in March next year when it begins its qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup.

New Zealand head coach Danny Hay said it wouldn’t have been possible to select a competitive squad, given the unavailability of some players and the travel restrictions.

“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,” Hay said.

New Zealand last reached the World Cup in 2010.

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