bahrain showdown

Nelsen to lead New Zealand for World Cup play-off

September 29, 2009

New Zealand have chosen a 19-man squad, captained by Blackburn Rovers defender Ryan Nelsen, for next month's first leg of their World Cup play-off against Bahrain.

With the exception of suspended goalkeeper Glen Moss, New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert was able to name a full-strength side for the away leg of a playoff he hopes will take the All Whites to their first World Cup in 28 years.

"It's an incredibly important couple of fixtures and I'm delighted to be able to name the squad," Herbert said in a statement on Tuesday.

"I think that's been the biggest frustrations over my time is not been able to have the best side together for a long period of time.

"The flipside is that some other players have been given opportunities and some have really solidified their position in the team."

New Zealand have not qualified for the World Cup since 1982 but advanced to a two-leg play-off against Bahrain, who beat Saudi Arabia to finish as the fifth-placed country in Asia, after easily winning the Oceania qualifying phase.

Traditional Oceania powerhouse Australia have switched to the Asian confederation.

The New Zealanders will assemble in Dubai next week to prepare for the first leg in Manama on October 10 before returning home for the deciding leg in Wellington on November 14.

"Bahrain had to put their best foot forward against Saudi Arabia so that information is fresh and current," Herbert said. "We've broken down that information and will roll it out to the players.

"We're pretty comfortable .... as soon as we hit that first training session in Dubai we'll be rolling out what we think is going to be important for the first game."

With no high-quality domestic league of their own, the bulk of New Zealand's squad play in the Australian A-League, with six coming from the Wellington Phoenix.

The squad also includes a handful of players with European experience, including Celtic striker Chris Killen, who scored twice in a friendly against world champions Italy this year, and teenage striker Chris Wood, who plays for West Bromwich Albion.

Goalkeepers - James Bannatyne (Team Wellington, New Zealand, Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand), Jacob Spoonley (Auckland City, New Zealand)

Defenders - Andrew Boyens (New York Red Bulls, United States), Tony Lochhead, David Mulligan (both Wellington Phoenix), Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers, England), Aaron Scott (Waitakere United, New Zealand), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City)

Midfielders - Andy Barron (Team Wellington), Leo Bertos, Tim Brown (both Wellington Phoenix), Simon Elliott (San Jose Earthquakes, United States), Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners, Australia)

Forwards - Rory Fallon (Plymouth Argyle, England), Chris Killen (Celtic, Scotland), Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast United, Australia), Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion, England).