Defender Michael Boxall will look to become the next Loon to earn a spot at the 2018 World Cup when the New Zealand national team takes on Peru in the inter-confederation playoff. The home-and-home series begins with the first match on Friday, November 10 and the second on Wednesday, November 15. Aggregate score will be used to determine the winner.
Boxall and his fellow Kiwis have had a busy year building up to this series. After winning the OFC Nations Cup in 2016, they earned the right to play in the 2017 Confederations Cup this summer. A tough group schedule against Mexico, Portugal and hosts Russia led to a winless run for the All-Whites. Friendlies against European and Asian countries also led to tough results while traveling across the globe. They rebounded well when they returned to World Cup Qualifying a few months later, crushing the Solomon Islands 8-3 on aggregate to win the Oceania qualifying group and earn a spot in the playoff.
Peru’s fifth-place finish in CONEMBOL was good enough for a spot in the playoff after a wild finish on the final day of qualifying. A Colombia own goal helped Peru get a crucial point to tie with Chile on points. The draw capped off a five-match unbeaten run that made up for a slow start in qualifying process. A 3-0 win by Brazil over Chile that same day helped Peru win the goal differential tie breaker and eliminate their southern neighbors from the competition.
It will be a tall order for the Kiwis to get past the Peruvians and return to the World Cup for the first time since 2010. Having the first home match may be a major benefit for New Zealand, as it will be able to set the tone for the series and not have to deal with travel right off the bat. However, New Zealand has not won an away match since March when it beat lowly Fiji, making the leg in Lima very difficult.
If Boxall and New Zealand can pull off a result in the first leg, they will be in a great position to earn a spot in the 2018 World Cup.
First Leg: Friday, November 10 | 9:15 p.m. CT | Wellington, NZL | beIN SPORTS
Second Leg: Wednesday, November 15 | 8:15 p.m. CT | Lima, PER | beIN SPORTS