All Whites coach Anthony Hudson has decided to release captain Chris Wood and midfielder Ryan Thomas for the second leg of the OFC Final Stage of Qualifying for the FIFA World Cup.
The OFC Nations Cup champions defeated the Solomon Islands 6-1 in a dominant performance last night at QBE Stadium in Auckland. Wood scored a superb hat-trick to reach 23 international goals and climb to third on the all-time scorer's list for New Zealand, while Thomas also found the back of the net for his third international goal.
The starting XI had a recovery session today while the reserves trained in Albany. The squad will fly to the Solomon Islands early on Monday morning for the second leg on Tuesday afternoon.
Hudson feels they have enough depth in their squad to deal with the upcoming challenge in Honiara without two of their key playmakers in Wood (Burnley FC, England) and Thomas (PEC Zwolle, Netherlands).
"I have made the decision to release Chris and Ryan as we have the players within this group to win the game and finish the job. I wanted to either rest them on the bench or send them back early and I've decided to do the latter," said Hudson.
"We're not taking anything for granted and it's a matter of pride that we prepare correctly and go there to win. We know it is not going to be easy in Honiara and the objective for this group of players is simple; perform well, win the game and confirm our place in the Intercontinental Playoff. No one in our squad is thinking about November yet and we can't afford to with what is at stake in this match."
The winner of the home and away fixtures will advance to the Intercontinental Playoff against the fifth-ranked South American team in November for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.