Soccer: All Whites selection puzzle for Herbert

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert. Photo / Richard Robinson.
All Whites coach Ricki Herbert. Photo / Richard Robinson.

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has a tough selection puzzle to solve in picking an 18-man squad to face Jamaica at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on February 29.

The match against the country ranked 52nd in the world - which could be a preview of a World Cup qualifying playoff in November 2013 - is the All Whites' only match this year.

Herbert will name his squad next week and even though clubs must release players for the game as it comes in an FIFA international window, he said player interest in the game is a positive sign.

"I've heard a few players publicly confirming their will to be part of the group and that's always pleasing," Herbert said.

"We've built a strong group and the desire to pull on the shirt and represent New Zealand is at its core."

Since the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Herbert has handed senior debuts to Marco Rojas, Michael Fitzgerald, Jake Gleeson and Michael Boxall. Others like Kosta Barbarouses have been recalled to the fold and made strong cases for long-term involvement in the national team.

"The number of players in professional environments has only increased in recent years and there's a pool of about 30 players now who were involved in South Africa or in games since the World Cup."

"The reality is that I can only select 18 for this match and while it means we're building a depth we probably haven't had before it also means I've got some tough choices to make in the next few days."

Gold Coast goalkeeper Glen Moss, who is recovering from surgery on a torn adductor muscle, is the only player confirmed to be ruled out through injury although the progress of Ryan Nelsen's knee is being keenly followed.

- APNZ

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