The Oceania Football Confederation will use the establishment of a Challenge Cup between the champions of Asia and Oceania as the platform for developing closer ties between the two regions, according to OFC president, Basil Scarsella.
The inaugural AFC/OFC Challenge Cup will be held on August 15 in the Japanese city of Shizuoka, one of the venues for next year's World Cup. Asian champions Japan will host Oceania champions Australia in a one-off match, but in future the competition will be played on a home-and-away basis.
After years of working towards a stronger, more formal, relationship, between the neighbouring confederations, Scarsella sees the Challenge Cup is a major breakthrough.
"It is no secret the OFC has wanted closer ties with Asia for a number of years, and we feel this is a sign of real progress," said Scarsella.
"We can work together for the mutual benefit of two of the fastest growing football regions in the world. There is a lot we have to offer each other.
"For instance, this is a series between national teams, but we would like to create a competition between our club sides as well. In terms of youth development and coaching, Oceania would also like to extend our help and assistance.
"In many ways, Asia and Oceania have never been closer. It is my hope that we can formalise arrangements that will help both of us. I will be visiting Japan for the match, and intend to meet with AFC officials to discuss what can be done."
The match at the 45,000-capacity Ecopa Stadium will be the second meeting between Japan and Australia this year, with the Socceroos looking for revenge after being beaten in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup earlier this month.
Fresh from World Cup success at the weekend, Socceroo coach Frank Farina sees the game as important preparation for the final stage of the qualifying campaign at the end of the year.
Because of the congested international calendar, the inaugural Challenge Cup has been restricted to a single game. However for the next edition of the AFC/OFC Challenge Cup, scheduled for 2003, a home-and-away series will be staged.
Japan qualified for the Cup after winning the Asian Cup in Lebanon at the end of last year. Australia won the right to represent Oceania after defeating New Zealand in the final of the OFC Nations Cup in Tahiti 12 months ago.