The Socceroos are to play World Cup quarter-finalists Paraguay in a friendly international at the Sydney Football Stadium on October 9.
In Australia’s first match on home soil since their World Cup campaign, Lucas Neill’s men will take on one of the surprise packets of the tournament in South Africa – it took a goal from Spain superstar David Villa with just seven minutes remaining for the eventual champions to get past Paraguay in the quarter-finals.
The South Americans, who boast the likes of Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz, veteran Sunderland defender Paulo Da Silva and goalkeeper Justo Villar in their ranks, will also play the All Whites in New Zealand on their tour on October 12. The All Whites actually held Paraguay to a 0-0 draw in the group stages during the World Cup.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief executive Ben Buckley announced the fixture on Thursday, noting it will be the only time fans will get to see the Socceroos on home soil before the end of the year.
“It should be a fantastic match as Paraguay is a top quality opponent as shown by the fact the team reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup before losing to eventual winners Spain,” he said.
“It will give the Socceroos the chance to benchmark themselves against first class opposition as they prepare for the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January and most likely with a new coach at the helm.” The FFA are currently searching for a coach to take over from Pim Verbeek, with national technical director Han Berger filling the role on a temporary basis.
The Socceroos, ranked 20th in the world, are already scheduled to play Slovenia in Ljubljana on August 11, Switzerland in St Gallen on September 3 and Poland in Krakow on September 7.
Australia have played Paraguay four times previously – a three-match series in 2000 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and one match in 2006, with the Socceroos holding a slight edge with one win and three draws.
For the Kiwis, they are taking the match as an opportunity to build on the momentum gained from their unbeaten run during the World Cup.
New Zealand Football chief executive Michael Glading said getting the friendly against the World Cup quarter-finalists, now ranked No.16 in the world, so soon after the tournament was “a real coup”.
“Bringing a top-20 team has not always been viable in the past, but football’s stock is rising and this match is a chance to keep that World Cup momentum going and for fans to see all their World Cup heroes back at home again,” he said.
AAP jd/bh / Simon Willmore