AUCKLAND – Ricki Herbert has named a full strength 18-man squad for the Thai Airways All Whites’ crucial home and away 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia in early September.
The All Whites are just one win away from a spot in the 2009 Confederations Cup and a two-legged playoff with the fifth best team from Asia for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup but Herbert has left nothing to chance by naming his strongest squad of the campaign for the games in Noumea on September 6 and at North Harbour stadium four days later.
“It’s very timely. These are two very important games for New Zealand so it’s great to get to this point with selection options,” Herbert said.
“I personally have never, and the team hasn’t either, underestimated the challenge of these qualifying games. New Caledonia will provide a tough contest, especially away from home.”
Fresh from the Oly-Whites’ campaign, Simon Elliott and Ryan Nelsen are both injury-free and in line to suit up for the All Whites for the first time since 2004, while Celtic striker and fellow Olympian Chris Killen returns after missing home and away qualifiers against Vanuatu last November with an Achilles strain.
New Zealand Football CEO Michael Glading said a fully-fit Nelsen – who has missed the All Whites first three qualifying wins with an on-going hamstring injury and then the birth of his first child – had reaffirmed his commitment to the All Whites cause.
“I’ve spoken with Ryan since the Olympics – as has Ricki – and he’s over the injury that’s kept him out of the campaign so far and looking forward to getting back in the environment.”
Wellington Phoenix contribute half the 18-man squad with the A-League club’s off-season recruits Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund and David Mulligan boosting their tally of All Whites to nine.
The New Zealand Football Championship’s lone representative is Waitakere United playmaker Allan Pearce, who has survived the cull from a wider 24-man squad named in June to remain in contention for his All Whites debut.
Tim Brown’s suspension from the September 6 fixture in Noumea leaves the captaincy temporarily open while Ivan Vicelich’s international retirement leaves Herbert with a more permanent void to fill.
“Ivan’s played an integral part in this group since 2005. He’s been a senior member of the squad, and has been instrumental in everything we’ve achieved. He’ll be sorely missed.”
The All Whites assemble in Auckland on September 2, before flying out for Noumea on September 4.
Thai Airways All Whites squad to face New Caledonia (club – caps/goals)
Goalkeepers: Glen Moss (Wellington Phoenix – 7/0), Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix – 16/0)
Defenders: Andrew Boyens (New York Red Bulls – 5/0), Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix – 16/0), David Mulligan (Wellington Phoenix – 19/3), Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers – 34/7), Steven Old (Macarthur Rams – 17/0), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix – 5/0)
Midfielders: Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix – 21/0), Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix – 16/0), Jeremy Christie (Wellington Phoenix – 12/0), Simon Elliott (Unattached – 54/8), Chris James (Tampere United – 8/1), Duncan Oughton (Columbus Crew – 21/2), Allan Pearce (Waitakere United – 0/0)
Forwards: Chris Killen (Celtic FC – 27/15), Shane Smeltz (Wellington Phoenix – 19/7), Jarrod Smith (Toronto FC – 11/0)
Management: Ricki Herbert (Coach), Brian Turner (Assistant Coach), Clint Gosling (Goalkeeper Coach), Phil Warbrick (Manager); Roland Jeffery (Physiotherapist), Wade Irvine (Massage Therapist), Celeste Geertsema (Doctor).
New Caledonia v New Zealand
Stade Numa-Daly Magenta
Kickoff: 5pm local (6pm NZT)
New Zealand v New Caledonia
North Harbour Stadium
Live on Sky TV
September 6 – New Caledonia v New Zealand
September 6 – Fiji v Vanuatu
September 10 – New Zealand v New Caledonia
September 10 – Vanuatu v Fiji
November 19 – New Zealand v Fiji (Lautoka)
New Zealand’s 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying results to date
Oct 13 (Albany) New Zealand p:p Fiji
Oct 17 (Lautoka) Fiji 0:2 New Zealand Ivan Vicelich 33, Shane Smeltz 87
Nov 17 (Port Vila) Vanuatu 1:2 New Zealand Smeltz 53, David Mulligan 90+4
Nov 21 (Wellington) New Zealand 4:1 Vanuatu Mulligan 14, 82 Smeltz 27(pen), 34
2010 FIFA World Cup – Oceania Qualifying