New Zealand delay head coach appointment due to ‘family health issue’

New Zealand missed out on qualification for the World Cup in Qatar  (Getty Images)
New Zealand missed out on qualification for the World Cup in Qatar (Getty Images)
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New Zealand Football (NZF) said on Wednesday they have a preferred candidate to coach the national men’s team but the appointment has been delayed due to a family health issue.

New Zealand have been looking for a replacement for former coach Danny Hay, who decided to quit rather than re-apply for his job following a review of the All Whites’ failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

NZF said their candidate for the full-time role was unable to take up the position for home friendlies against China in March, so Under-20s coach Darren Bazeley will fill the role on an interim basis.

“The leading candidate for the permanent All Whites head coach role had to be called upon to help manage a family health issue,” NZF said in a statement.

NZF boss Andrew Pragnell said the federation had made a contract offer to the leading candidate last month and were still hopeful of a signature.

However, NZF will reassess the situation after the China matches in Auckland on March 23 and Wellington on March 26.

“We’re still in dialogue. We’re still positive. I remain optimistic about it,” Pragnell told New Zealand’s Stuff news website.

“Having said that, we are dealing with variables that are outside of our control.”

Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay put his hand up for the job in October but was told on Tuesday he was out of the running, New Zealand media reported.

The All Whites have been eliminated in qualifying for the last three World Cups by losing intercontinental playoffs but have high hopes of making the next one.

Oceania has been guaranteed one slot in the expanded 48-team World Cup in North America in 2026 and, given New Zealand’s dominance of the region, they will be highly favoured to reach the finals.