Football: All Whites clash against world No. 1 Belgium cancelled due to NZ player availability

The All Whites have been dealt a massive blow, with their game against world No.1 Belgium cancelled, NZ Football have confirmed. 

Last week Newshub reported the fixture against the World Cup semi-finalists in Brussels, scheduled on October 9 (NZ time), was in doubt due to player and staff availability - and that has ultimately proven to be the case. 

Earlier this month, coach Danny Hay revealed to Newshub the struggles of assembling the squad, as NZ, Australia and US-based players were unavailable for the match, meaning only European-based players could be selected and some had ruled themselves out of the contest.

The match would also see New Zealand get the chance to face some of the biggest names in world football including Eden Hazard, and Kevin De Bruyne. 

NZ Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell said it was a difficult decision to cancel the match. 

"We are incredibly disappointed to be in this position but from the outset our first priority was our players," he says.

 "As it currently stands we aren't able to get enough of our team to the game and back to their respective countries without major disruptions to their domestic seasons.

"We knew when agreeing this fixture that the impact of COVID-19 was fluid but with a number of our squad unable to travel due to COVID restrictions, or having to go through significant quarantine on their return home, it became unfeasible. 

"It would have taken them out of contention for their club sides and impacted on their long-term development as players and their careers." 

Due to COVID-19 and quarantine restrictions in place across various countries, FIFA has relaxed rules for the September and October international windows, so clubs aren't obliged to release players as they normally are.

The All Whites haven't played since last November when they lost to Lithuania 1-0 in Vilnius. They were scheduled to play Oman and Bahrain in March 2020 however, the matches were cancelled due COVID-19.

The All Whites do have a match locked in against England at Wembley on November 13.