Northern Ireland to play New Zealand in June friendly

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis celebrates after scoring against San Marino
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis celebrates after scoring against San Marino in last October's qualifier

Northern Ireland will take on New Zealand in a friendly encounter at Windsor Park on 2 June.

The Belfast game will be used as preparation for a 2018 World Cup qualifier away against Azerbaijan eight days later.

"The players will need a game at that time as some of their seasons will have finished as early as the end of April," said NI manager MIchael O'Neill.

"We'll use it sensibly and get as many of the squad on the pitch as possible."

Northern Ireland beat Azerbaijan 4-0 in their last qualifier in November and sit second in Group C.

Training schedule

O'Neill revealed that preparations for the trip to Azerbaijan will include two training camps in Britain before the game against the All Whites, followed by an overseas training camp.

He added: "I wanted a home game following our first two camps and it will come at a good time for us. It's not too close to the Azerbaijan game and it will help to keep the players sharp."

It is also a warm-up game for New Zealand as they prepare for the Confederations Cup in Russia, where they will face the hosts, Portugal and Mexico in the group stage.

New Zealand captain Winston Reid, who plays at centre-back for West Ham, is one of their best known players along with Chris Wood, the striker currently topping the scoring charts for Leeds United.

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