The All Whites have been hit by two further injuries ahead of their FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against the Solomon Islands this week.
Anthony Hudson’s team, who lost the services of skipper Winston Reid and centre-back Tommy Smith in the build-up, have also had midfielder Marco Rojas (quad strain) and striker Shane Smeltz (right calf tear) ruled out with injury.
Smeltz, a hero of the 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign, will be replaced by Alex Rufer (Wellington Phoenix) and Reid will be replaced by Sam Brotherton (Sunderland). Rojas will not be replaced.
Hudson said Brotherton and Rufer were the ideal players to bring into the squad as they prepare for the OFC Final Stage of FIFA World Qualifying.
“Of course we were disappointed when we lose players to injury, but this presents a great opportunity for others to step up and be a part of our plans going forward for the rest of the year,” said Hudson.
“Sam has been a part of our squad for a long time now, he knows what I want, what we need and if and when he’s called upon I know he’ll step up as he always has. He’s been involved in big games with us before, pressured games and I trust him fully.
“I have said for a while now that I believe Alex Rufer is one of the best young players in New Zealand and it is an opportunity for him to show his ability in two very big games.”
Brotherton, a 20-year-old centre-back who plays for the Sunderland U-23 development team, has played seven internationals for New Zealand since making his debut in 2015, while Rufer, the son of former All Whites midfielder Shane Rufer has played three internationals for the All Whites since making his debut in 2015.
Hudson said the week will be challenging, but they are looking forward to playing at home in front of a good crowd at QBE Stadium on 1 September.
“The time pressures of this week are huge and unique to all of world football I would say,” he said. “We only have our full squad together for two and a half days before kick-off on Friday night so every minute with the team counts. This isn’t an excuse, it’s the opposite, it’s a great opportunity for us.
“This is the context for New Zealand international football where we are a day behind our European players games, then the journey here, and then a Friday night international game. But I’m excited, what a great opportunity to show how far we’ve come and how strong we are at dealing with scenarios like this, I can’t wait. We are only focused on winning the next two games, nothing more.”
The All Whites began arriving in Auckland today and Hudson is looking forward to getting into training tomorrow and start preparing for the Solomon Islands.
It is the first time in New Zealand Football history that every member of an All Whites squad is on a professional contract at clubs around the world.
“It shows that the work we have been doing over the past three years is paying off,” said Hudson. “I said right from the start that we have needed depth in all positions to compete with the best teams in the world and to have a fully professional squad bodes well for this All Whites squad and our ability to compete on the world stage.”
All Whites (Club, Country – NZ unless noted, caps and goals):
Kosta BARBAROUSES Melbourne Victory, Australia, 42 (3)
Sam BROTHERTON Sunderland, England 7 (0)
Myer BEVAN Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada, 0 (0)
Michael BOXALL Minnesota United, USA, 27 (0)
Kip COLVEY San Jose Earthquakes, USA, 11 (0)
Tom DOYLE Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand, 6 (0)
Andrew DURANTE Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand, 20 (0)
Dane INGHAM Brisbane Roar, Australia, 4 (0)
Stefan MARINOVIC Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada, 19 (0)
Michael McGLINCHEY Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand, 48 (4)
James MUSA Sporting Kansas City, USA, 1 (0)
Glen MOSS Newcastle Jets, Australia, 29 (0)
Monty PATTERSON Ipswich Town, England, 13 (1)
Alex RUFER Wellington Phoenix, 3 (0)
Storm ROUX Central Coast Mariners, Australia, 7 (0)
Oliver SAIL Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand, 0 (0)
Ryan THOMAS PEC Zwolle, Netherlands, 14 (2)
Themi TZIMOPOULOS PAS Giannina, Greece, 11 (1)
Chris WOOD (c) Burnley, England, 52 (20)
Deklan WYNNE Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada, 11 (0)
2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers – OFC Stage 3 Final
New Zealand v Solomon Islands
QBE Stadium, Auckland
Friday 1 September
Kick-off: 7.35pm (local time)
Solomon Islands v New Zealand
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara
Tuesday 5 September
Kick-off: 2pm (local time)