Among the squad drawn from leagues in eight different countries, Milicich has selected two players – Birmingham City’s Luke Rowe and Melbourne Victory’s Marco Rojas – also included in Ricki Herbert’s wider All Whites squad, with Rojas making his international debut against China last week.
A total of eight players have been drawn from professional clubs including Italy-based right back Luke Graham, Germany-based goalkeeper Stefan Marinovich and Wellington Phoenix defender James Musa, while another two players have been selected from United States universities. The balance is largely made up of ASB Premiership regulars, including golden boot runner-up Andy Bevin.
Established All White Chris Wood will stay with Brighton as the table-topping League One club, where the striker is on loan, chase promotion to the English Championship.
“I think it’s a strong squad and I think it will do the job that we ask it to,” Milicich says.
New Zealand have been drawn with the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia in Group B of the seven-nation OFC U-20 Championship, with the winner of the April 29 final qualifying for the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia during July and August.
The last two qualifying tournaments have proved tough to navigate for New Zealand, with the class of 2007 notching two narrow victories and a draw among its six-game campaign before going on to a credible performance at the finals in Canada. The qualifiers for the 2009 edition proved too tough for the Young All Whites as host Tahiti qualified for the finals in Egypt.
Milicich is under no illusions and says finding a balance between locally and globally sourced players will be crucial.
“Qualification is definitely not assured and that’s why we went out of our way to ensure that at least 10 of the boys who are here and have trained and played together are in the squad. If we have to go with them in game one, we’ve got confidence in them. It’s a strong base and we expect the boys coming in from offshore to strengthen that.”
Despite casting a wide net in early camps that were attended by many of the overseas-based players hopeful of earning a spot, Milicich says the make-up of the squad may change if New Zealand secure qualification for Colombia.
“This squad is for the qualifiers and the door is not closed on players who want to put their hand up. International football is about picking the best players at the time and if we qualify we’ll look at the right mix for playing in Colombia in July which will be a lot different to Auckland in April.”
New Zealand squad for OFC U-20 Championship:
Stefan MARINOVICH (SV Wehen Wiesbaden, GER)
James MCPEAKE (Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA)
Nick BRANCH (Waikato FC)
Liam GRAHAM (Vicenza Calcio, ITA)
Anthony HOBBS (Waitakere United)
James MUSA (Wellington Phoenix)
Luke ROWE (Birmingham City, ENG)
Neko VUJEVICH (Gold Coast United, AUS)
Cory CHETTLEBURG (Sparta Rotterdam, NED)
Ryan DE VRIES (Waitakere United)
Jamie DORIS (Hibernian, SCO)
Colin MURPHY (Boston College, USA)
Marco ROJAS (Melbourne Victory, AUS)
Zane SOLE (Waitakere United)
Adam THOMAS (Auckland City)
Andy BEVIN (Hawkes Bay United)
Ryan CAIN (Team Wellington)
Ethan GALBRAITH (Lower Hutt City)
Dakota LUCAS (Waitakere United)
Andrew MILNE (Auckland City)
On standby:
Cameron LINDSAY (Blackburn Rovers, ENG)
Dale HIGHAM (YoungHeart Manawatu)
Caleb RUFER (Unattached)
Not considered because of injury:
Sean LOVEMORE (Waitakere United)
Head Coach: Chris MILICICH
Assistant Coach: Andy HEDGE
Team Manager: Craig ALEXANDER
GK Coach: Mark OATES
Physiotherapist: Justin LOPES
Doctor: Simon WILKINSON
Sport Scientist: Kurt OLSEN
Technical Adviser: Allan JONES
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football.
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