Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: Durante named in All Whites squad

NZ Football hopeful new citizen will be cleared by Fifa in time for crucial qualifier against New Caledonia.

Durante has been one of the best-performing centre backs in the A-League during the past few seasons. Photo / Getty Images
Durante has been one of the best-performing centre backs in the A-League during the past few seasons. Photo / Getty Images

Pending clearance from Fifa, Andrew Durante is a strong bet to make his All Whites debut against New Caledonia at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on March 22.

The Australian-born Wellington Phoenix skipper became a New Zealand citizen at a brief ceremony in the capital yesterday and was promptly named in the All Whites squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

The All Whites need to beat only New Caledonia to guarantee their spot in November's intercontinental home-and-away playoff against the fourth-placed team from North and Central America for a place at next year's World Cup in Brazil.

New Zealand will play the Solomons in Honiara in the final game of qualifying on March 26 but that fixture could serve as a dead rubber depending on the result in Dunedin.

Durante's potential clearance to play for the national side is timely for All Whites coach Ricki Herbert who was recently shorn of long-time captain Ryan Nelsen who retired from playing to take up a coaching position with Toronto FC in Canada.

Durante has been one of the best-performing centre backs in the A-League during the past few seasons and the 30-year-old said yesterday was a proud day for him.

"It's pretty exciting. Obviously I've still got to get the all clear from Fifa but it seems to be that that'll happen," Durante said.

As for getting his citizenship, Durante said it took less time than he expected.

"It was actually a pretty quick process," Durante said. "I went in there at 10am [yesterday] morning to Internal Affairs into quite a small room and the lady Caroline had the bible out and I just pledged my allegiance to New Zealand and honestly it was over in about five minutes."

Durante will now apply for his passport, which should take around five to 10 days to be processed.

New Zealand Football sent their application to Fifa yesterday afternoon for Durante to be given clearance. Despite the fact he has sat on the bench for the Socceroos before - including a 1-0 win over Indonesia on March 3, 2010 - the 30-year-old never took the field for Australia.

The application included a letter from Durante, his citizenship certificate, a letter from Football Federation Australia and other material to support his case.

New Zealand Football's high performance director, Fred de Jong, said they were confident of seeing Durante being given the green light given he never played a game for Australia.

"He meets the criteria so it's a matter of hopefully Fifa looking in to that and finding that that's the case and coming back to us and saying he's good to go," de Jong said.

"He's a good player so it just gives Ricki another option, should he select him."

Herbert has named 19 players in the squad to meet New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands because if Durante hasn't been signed off in time he will drop out to give the Kiwis the maximum 18 you can select for a World Cup qualifier.

Suspensions could be an issue for Herbert who already has Ben Sigmund sidelined for the Dunedin match after he picked up his second caution in the qualifying campaign against Tahiti in Christchurch last year. Sigmund will be available for selection in the Solomon Islands.

Ten All Whites are walking the suspension tightrope with Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Ian Hogg, Tony Lochhead, Michael McGlinchey, Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen, Ivan Vicelich, Jeremy Brockie and Chris Wood all sitting on a yellow card.

A further caution during any of the remaining qualifying matches will result in a suspension from the next fixture, including the intercontinental playoff.

A captain will be named when the squad assembles in Dunedin on March 19.

All Whites squad
Mark Paston, Glen Moss, Winston Reid, Tony Lochhead, Ben Sigmund, Tommy Smith, Ian Hogg, Andrew Durante, Leo Bertos, Michael McGlinchey, Dan Keat, Ivan Vicelich, Tim Payne, Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen, Marco Rojas, Jeremy Brockie, Kosta Barbarouses, Chris Wood.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 26 Dec 2014 23:29:53 Processing Time: 550ms