A gutsy goalless draw in Manama on October 10 and a capacity 35,000 home crowd have created a mouth-watering challenge for the All Whites, who would earn a place at the World Cup finals for the first time since 1982 with a win on home soil.
While Herbert has ultimately retained the same matchday 18 from the first leg, the All Whites coach says it wasn’t necessarily a straightforward decision.
“It’s never easy to go with final squad for the most important game but I think there has been consistency with this group of players that has gone through Jordan and Bahrain and we just feel it’s important to keep that intact,” Herbert said.
Injury and illness concerns over two key players have been allayed with captain Ryan Nelsen confirmed to have avoided the swine flu scare at Blackburn Rovers and Rory Fallon recovering well from a calf strain that saw him hobble out of Plymouth Argyle’s match against Ipswich Town last weekend.
“Rory is making very good progress and I spoke to Ryan last night and he’s in good health so as we stand we’ve got no injury concerns or medical problems.”
As injury cover, Herbert has named five players on a non-travelling standby list comprising Steven Old, Jeremy Brockie, Jeremy Christie, Kris Bright and also Jacob Spoonley, who provided goalkeeping cover in Manama but did not make the matchday 18.
The All Whites assemble in Wellington on Tuesday 10 November, and while the eight Wellington-based players won’t need to travel far, the northern hemisphere contingent of players will need to quickly shake of the jet lag and adjust their body clocks before playing the biggest game of their careers.
While a New Zealand victory would confirm qualification for South Africa, a score draw would be enough for Bahrain to progress on the away goals rule.
A repeat of the 0-0 first leg score line would send the fixture into extra time and then to a penalty shootout if no further goals were scored. FIFA confirmed to NZF this week that [away] goals scored by Bahrain in extra time would also count double if the match remains tied after the extra 30 minutes.
New Zealand Squad for FIFA World Cup Asia/Oceania Playoff (second leg)
November 14, 2009
James BANNATYNE (Team Wellington – 5/0)
Mark PASTON (Wellington Phoenix – 22/0)
Andrew BOYENS (New York Red Bulls – 14/0)
Tony LOCHHEAD (Wellington Phoenix – 20/0)
David MULLIGAN (Wellington Phoenix – 30/3)
Ryan NELSEN (Captain, Blackburn Rovers – 40/9)
Aaron SCOTT (Waitakere United – 5/0)
Ben SIGMUND (Wellington Phoenix – 11/1)
Ivan VICELICH (Auckland City – 71/7)
Andy BARRON (Team Wellington – 12/1)
Leo BERTOS (Wellington Phoenix – 29/0)
Tim BROWN (Wellington Phoenix – 26/0)
Simon ELLIOTT (San Jose Earthquakes – 66/8)
Michael MCGLINCHEY (Central Coast Mariners – 2/0)
Rory FALLON (Plymouth Argyle – 2/1)
Chris KILLEN (Celtic – 25/17)
Shane SMELTZ (Gold Coast United – 30/17)
Chris WOOD (West Bromwich Albion – 4/0)
Management: Ricki Herbert (Coach), Brian Turner (Assistant Coach), Clint Gosling (Goalkeeper Coach), Raul Blanco (Technical Advisor), Phil Warbrick (Manager), Roland Jeffery (Physiotherapist), Wade Irvine (Massage Therapist), Celeste Geertsema (Doctor), Kenny McMillan (Sports Scientist), Jamie Scott (Media Officer).
2010 FIFA World Cup Asia/Oceania Playoff
First Leg (October 10, Manama)
Bahrain 0
New Zealand 0
Second Leg
New Zealand v Bahrain
November 14, 2009
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Local kick-off: 8pm