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Canada to begin Herdman era with March friendly against New Zealand

Canada haven’t played the Kiwis since 1980

Soccer: 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying - Finals-Canada at USA Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The new era of the Canadian men’s national team officially gets underway on March 24. That’s when national team manager John Herdman will be at the helm for the first time in a friendly against New Zealand.

The two sides will meet at Pinatar Arena in Murcia, Spain. The official time of the match has yet to be confirmed, although a Canadian Soccer Association release mentioned the match would be played during the afternoon in Spain.

New Zealand seems like a natural opponent for Herdman’s debut, given that it was the national where he got his national team coaching start. Herdman was the head coach of the Kiwi’s women’s program between 2006 and 2011.

“New Zealand has and always will hold a special place in my heart as it gave me my first opportunity to work in international football as well as the chance to be part of leaving a special legacy with the Whole of Football Plan,” said Herdman in a Canada Soccer release. “I am pleased that I will have the chance to begin this new chapter for Canada against New Zealand.”

Like Canada, New Zealand failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after falling 2-0 on aggregate to Peru in the OFC-CONMEBOL playoff. Both sides will now turn their attention to building towards the 2022 Qatar qualifying campaign.

After going undefeated at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (three draws before exiting at the group stage), the Kiwis have struggled. They have missed the last two World Cups and have fallen to 120th in the world, behind Canada at 95. The two sides have not met in an international friendly since 1980.

Ultimately this should be a good first test for Herdman as head coach, and a chance to get both 2018 and his career with the men’s national team off to a good start.