Soccer: Nelsen out of China friendly

Ryan Nelsen. Photo / Richard Robinson
Ryan Nelsen. Photo / Richard Robinson

The All Whites will tackle China on Thursday morning (NZT) without captain Ryan Nelsen, who has withdrawn with niggling ankle and knee injuries.

Coach Ricki Herbert has called up 17-year-old midfielder Cameron Howieson, who will travel from Burnley to link up the rest of the All Whites squad in Shanghai today.

Nelsen and medical staff have been managing the injuries for the past month and he has not trained with his QPR club between matches in the English Premier League.

"Ryan is committed to our programme and is a key asset to our campaign to qualify for the Fifa World Cup in Brazil,'' New Zealand Football high performance director Fred de Jong said.

"It's not unique for a team to manage their athletes as best as they can. Ryan is 35 years old and we want to do all we can to make sure he is fit to play in our World Cup qualifiers in March and again in November next year if necessary.''

De Jong was aware the stance could leave NZF open to criticism in the wake of Winston Reid's situation during last month's World Cup qualifiers with Tahiti but was quick to stress the difference in scenarios.

Reid's West Ham club boss Sam Allardyce was highly critical of Herbert and NZF for insisting Reid joined up with the All Whites even though he was injured - he didn't play either game against Tahiti.

"The window in October was for official matches whereas this window is for friendly matches, which is a tighter timeframe,'' de Jong said.

The Fifa rules around release of players for official matches is five days prior to the window, whereas friendly matches is 48 hours.

"We were able to treat Winston on arrival in New Zealand for at least four days before the match with Tahiti in Christchurch. With the China game we're talking hours rather than days,'' de Jong said.

The last of the England-based All Whites arrive in Shanghai today, with the match scheduled for 12.30am (NZT) on Thursday.

- APNZ

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