Nelsen has reluctantly pulled out due to a knee injury, while coach Ricki Herbert has allowed Gleeson to remain with his club, Portland Timbers, following an injury to the Timbers’ first choice custodian.
A groin injury to Plymouth Argyle’s Fallon means the 29-year-old Gisborne-born striker is also omitted.
Herbert admits losing both his captain and an experienced player in Fallon ahead of the match is disappointing.
“I think the confidence, leadership and experience that both Ryan and Rory bring is going to be a loss for the team,” Herbert says. “But, as always in situations like this, it gives other players an opportunity to impress as we start out on the road to Brazil 2014.”
Herbert has called up former age-group defender Michael Boxall while Auckland City goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley is drafted in to replace Gleeson.
Boxall, recently signed by Major League Soccer side Vancouver Whitecaps, is delighted to have received a call-up.
“It is a huge honour to be selected in the New Zealand set-up after the experiences I had with the U-20 and U-23 sides,” he says.
The towering central defender admits he doesn’t know much about China’s national team but can draw on his experiences at the Beijing Olympics 2008.
“We drew 1-1 with China U-23 at the Olympic Games and they were technically gifted and very quick,” Boxall says. “But I’m confident that with the players we have we can get a result.”
Spoonley is delighted to win a recall for the one-off match in Wuhan.
“To be called into the squad is an honour for me after a bit of an hiatus,” he says.
“Sadly, the Japan game was called off but China is a powerful team in Asia. A number of players have come in and out of the group over time but everyone knows each other well. I’m looking forward to it.”
The City gloveman missed his club’s 5-0 O-League win over Tefana on Saturday but is raring to go with the All Whites.
“There are a number of debutants in the squad so it will be a big challenge. But this is a great opportunity for me and it’s great to be back in the squad,” he says.
The loss of Nelsen leaves Andy Boyens as the most capped central defender at Herbert’s disposal, with 71-cap veteran Ivan Vicelich also capable of playing in the back four.
Fallon’s withdrawal leaves the striking department still sprinkled with quality in Kosta Barbarouses, Chris Wood, Shane Smeltz and Chris Killen.
Herbert is unlikely to add another striker to the squad with the New Zealand-based players scheduled to depart for Hong Kong today.
The All Whites play China in Wuhan on March 25.
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football.
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