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FIFA CONFEDERATIONS CUP – VICELICH ANSWERS ALL WHITES SOS

AUCKLAND – Auckland City captain Ivan Vicelich has answered an SOS call from All Whites coach Ricki Herbert to come out of retirement and replace injured Ryan Nelsen for the FIFA Confederations Cup campaign in South Africa.

A veteran of New Zealand’s two previous Confederations Cup appearances in 1999 and 2003, Vicelich hung up his international boots in 2008 after 63 games for the All Whites.

Around the same time, the former Roda JC and RKC Waalwijk professional returned to New Zealand after eight years in the Netherlands to spend more family time with wife Marisa and their young son Luka.

But the defender said it was hard to turn his back when Herbert, and duty, called after a torn calf muscle ruled Nelsen out for up to six weeks.

“Last year I felt the time was right to retire but the pride of being an All White doesn’t fade, and if the coach says they need you to do a job for the team, you can’t ignore that,” Vicelich said.

The All Whites will play European champions Spain, hosts South Africa and Asian champions Iraq at the eight-team tournament beginning on June 14, with a dream date against world champions Italy rounding off three pre-event warm-ups, and Herbert said Vicelich’s experience made him the obvious replacement for Nelsen.

“Ivan’s played over 60 games for the national team, and when you’re up against the best teams in the world you need someone who can not only slot into the environment seamlessly but also add to it,” Herbert said.

“He understands the enormity of the year, and where the Confederations Cup sits within that, so it’s fantastic to have him on board."

Vicelich’s last game for New Zealand was a 2-0 away win over Fiji in October 2007 with the defender’s first half strike – the last of his seven international goals – setting the All Whites up for their opening win of 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying.

And while a World Cup playoff looms later this year, the 32-year-old – recently voted Auckland City’s player of the year after leading the club to an NZFC and O-League double – isn’t yet looking beyond June.

“At the moment my involvement is just for the Confederations Cup. The body’s still feeling good and the time back in New Zealand has refreshed me. There’s no greater honour than playing for your country so I’ll sit down with Ricki after the tournament and assess things.”

Story amd photo courtesy of NZF Media

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