New Zealand Coach Ricki Herbert has named his 23 man squad for the World Cup just a week before the All Whites meet up for their pre-tournament training camp.
The biggest surprise is the inclusion of uncapped 21 year-old defender Winston Reid of Danish club FC Midtyjlland. Born in New Zealand but having lived in Denmark since the age of 10, the versatile Reid has been capped by Denmark up to and including Under-21 level. Able to play at right-back or centre-back, it was only two months ago that Reid declared he wished to change allegiance to the country of his birth. Another uncapped player included is Canterbury United’s Aaron Clapham but the talented goal scoring midfielder had been in Herbert’s thoughts for some time despite his lack of international experience.
Teenage Ipswich Town left-sided defender Tommy Smith also makes the cut – with more notable British based players Ryan Nelsen of Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough’s Chris Killen and recent Motherwell capture Michael McGlinchey. Strikers Chris Wood of West Brom and Plymouth Argyle’s Rory Fallon will make up the rest of the contingent in the squad from British clubs.
As the majority of the squad is made up of those who secured the country’s passage to South Africa – there can be few hard feelings for any eligible players who have missed out – Herbert is staying loyal to those who have served him well so far. The previously unattached midfielder Jeremy Christie will also be relieved to have made it having recently found regular football in America with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Other currently unattached players sweating on their selection are midfielders Simon Elliott and David Mulligan – but their experience and previous form will have stood them in good stead. Perhaps the unluckiest player to miss out is Steven Old of Scottish side Kilmarnock. The centre-back deputised for captain Ryan Nelsen as recently as March in a friendly against Mexico but seems to have been edged out through Herbert’s gamble on Reid. Captain Nelsen will be strong at the centre of defence and forward Killen will use his strength to hold the ball up for whoever tucks in behind him in a 4-4-1-1 formation – and for any oncoming support from midfield in a 4-3-3 if they become adventurous.
Overall the squad looks to be the strongest Herbert could pick from the limited resources he has available. Nelsen and Killen are the most talented and experienced players in terms of top level and European experience. The biggest concern for Herbert is how few of his players have had such exposure to European or South American football. With most of his squad playing domestically – or in Australia and America – they will not have been exposed to the levels of pace, fitness and technical ability possessed by the Italy, Paraguay and even Slovakia. That the All Whites are taking players to South Africa who have been without a club in recent months is not something most other nations have to worry about. The forthcoming friendlies will be vital in providing them with match fitness while many will be looking for the World Cup to put them in the shop window.
To acclimatise to the step up as much as possible the Kiwi’s pre-tournament games will be key to giving them any chance of making an impression at the tournament. Herbert’s final squad selection will not change the tactics or style of play the Kiwi’s will use at the World Cup. They are still expected to adopt a physical approach with their most talented players at the heart of that. Ahead of the tournament the All Whites will face their fellow World Cup-bound neighbours Australia in a Melbourne friendly. From there they will head to Austria for games against Serbia and Slovenia. It is hoped that these games will help them acclimatise to the European style of play prior to Group games against Italy but more realistically Slovakia. While a scalp of the Italians might seem beyond the All Whites even at their most optimistic – these warm-up games will have been arranged with the All Whites fancying their chances of upsetting the Slovakians. Having already suffered a 2-0 defeat to Mexico in the USA last March – the final friendly will see them take on Chile as preparation for Paraguay just days ahead of South Africa. How New Zealand perform in those fixtures ahead of boarding the plane to South Africa will go some way to gauging how they might perform when the competitive football begins.
23-man New Zealand squad
James Bannatyne (Team Wellington)
Glen Moss (Melbourne Victory)
Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix)
Andy Boyens (New York Red Bulls)
Tony Lochead (Wellington Phoenix)
Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers)
Winston Reid (FC Midtyjlland)
Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix)
Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town)
Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City)
Andy Barron (Team Wellington)
Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix)
Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix)
Jeremy Christie (Tampa Bay Rowdies)
Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United)
Simon Elliot (Unattached)
Michael McGlinchey (Motherwell)
David Mulligan (Unattached) Forwards
Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets)
Rory Fallon (Plymouth Argyle)
Chris Killen (Middlesbrough)
Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast United)
Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion)