After the summer's heroics, it's time for New Zealand to get back to the humdrum of international friendlies. With Kiwi expectations raised, it's not time for resting on laurels. Fernando Battaglia looks ahead.
In a month’s time, the All Whites will face two nations who qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in international friendlies, and despite much talk of this being the first step toward qualifying for the 2014 edition of the tournament in Brazil, there is nothing new in their latest squad announcement.
After much discussion of who would or would not be selected, all three of New Zealand’s Premier League players will be in the squad: Blackburn Rovers’ Ryan Nelsen (captain), West Ham defender Winston Reid and West Bromwich Albion forward Chris Wood.
In fact, the squad is essentially the same as the one that played the World Cup in South Africa. The only missing names are those of Plymouth Argyles’ Rory Fallon (injured) and retired NZ-based players Andy Barron and James Bannatyne.
Nevertheless, we might be seeing a very different eleven to the one manager Ricki Herbert used in South Africa. Wood could sub for Fallon, but is yet to be seen whether New Zealand will continue to use a 3-4-3 formation that they employed since their World Cup qualifying playoff against Bahrain.
Playing at home should also mean that we might see New Zealand attempt to be a bit more creative, and not quite as defensive as they were in June.
The opposition could make that quite interesting. The rematch against Paraguay (a match that finished 0-0 in South Africa) will challenge the Kiwis who will be up against a team philosophy that is just as organised and defensively minded, but has greater attacking talent. The Honduras match could be the most entertaining, especially if both teams decide to go for the win.
Unfortunately, the long trip to New Zealand could mean that neither team brings their first-team squads. Paraguay is likely to miss Nelson Haedo Valdez and Edgar Barreto due to injury, while Honduras has already announced new manager Juan de Diós Castillo will only be using Honduras-based players in the team during his first few matches. That would mean David Suazo, Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa are unlikely to travel for the game in Auckland.
With the All Whites at near-full strength and their opposition potentially fielding weakened sides, expectations for two good results in New Zealand will be very strong. Raised expectations could mean a trip-up here for the All Whites could undo much of the support the team built up in South Africa.
All Whites squad for October international friendlies.
Glen Moss (Gold Coast United, Australia)
Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix)
Andrew Boyens (New York Red Bulls – 18/0)
Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix – 37/0)
Ryan Nelsen (Captain / Blackburn Rovers, England – 47/9)
Winston Reid (West Ham United, England – 7/1)
Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix – 15/1)
Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town, England – 8/0)
Ivan Vicelich (Shenzhen Ruby, China – 79/7
Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix – 38/0)
Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets – 21/0)
Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix – 29/0)
Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United – 0/0)
Jeremy Christie (Tampa Bay Rowdies – 26/1)
Simon Elliott (Unattached – 77/8)
Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners, Australia – 6/0)
David Mulligan (Auckland City – 30/3)
Cole Peverley (Team Wellington – 1/0)
Chris Killen (Shenzhen Ruby, China – 41/18)
Shane Smeltz (Genclerbirligi, Turkey – 39/18)
Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion, England – 13/0)
- Two matches in Melbourne yielded a single, solitary point for the Wellington Phoenix. Particularly galling is a 1-0 defeat to A-League expansion franchise Melbourne Heart. Playing away from home for extended periods of time is always tough on the Phoenix, but Ricki Herbert has to be disappointed with the team’s performance so far. The Phoenix lie in sixth place (out of 11) in the A-League with just eight points in seven matches.
- All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston was held out of both Phoenix matches in Melbourne. Paston developed a good reputation for himself at the World Cup and has become one of the Phoenix’s most visible players. He is not listed as injured, so another missed start in the next match in Wellington will really raise questions about his status with the squad. Australian Danny Vukovic has now started three straight matches in goal.
Fernando continues to provide the best coverage from New Zealand for IBWM, but if you’d like to read more from him, please visit his blog.