Wellington Phoenix youngsters Ben Waine and Ben Old have been rewarded for their breakthrough seasons at club level with selection in the All Whites’ squad for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Oceania Qualifiers.
After featuring in New Zealand’s history-making Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games campaign last year, the pair are in line to earn their first senior international cap for their country at the Oceania Qualifiers in Doha.
Speaking to media after naming his squad this week, head coach Danny Hay said Old and Waine had earned their chance and the trip to Qatar presents another opportunity for them to learn from All Whites veterans such as Chris Wood, Winston Reid and Kosta Barbarouses.
“(They’re) two serious footballers,” Hay said of Old and Wane.
“Really dedicated to their craft, to developing, to learning. The way they have performed when they’ve had the opportunities inside the Phoenix environment has been good this season.
“If I look back to the Olympics… Ben Waine in particular, how he was taken under the wing by Chris Wood, and the development that occurred in his game in a short space of time, I think it’s really important that we give these young players the exposure to be around world class players.”
While Wood is among the group of players who won’t join the squad until March 19, one player set to take on a mentoring role from day one in Qatar is Winston Reid.
The former West Ham defender joins fellow defender Tommy Smith and Wood as the surviving players from the All Whites’ 2010 World Cup campaign.
“Winnie’s presence, even when he is not playing, is enormous around the playing group,” Hay said.
“We know we have got a very young squad. To have somebody of his experience… the mana he carries amongst the group is massive, he’s been there and seen it all.
“He’s going to provide a little bit of experience with how to deal with certain pressure situations.”
New Zealand kick off their Oceania Qualifiers Group B run against Papua New Guinea on Match 18, before taking on Fiji and New Caledonia.