Soccer: Nelsen expected to play against Jamaica

Ryan Nelsen. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ryan Nelsen. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Typically when Ryan Nelsen is named to play in a friendly match for the All Whites there's an understanding it's probably not going to happen. This time, however, it's different.

Nelsen will today be named as captain of the 18-man squad to play Jamaica in a friendly international at Mt Smart Stadium on February 29.

Often in the past his club has said he's "injured" and can't play or that he has asked to skip the match, but All Whites coach Ricki Herbert expects Nelsen to suit up against Jamaica.

"I kind of think if he's right, then it probably wouldn't do him any harm to play a game," Herbert said. "Let's wait and see but he will certainly be named in the team and named as captain.

"Everyone [other than injured goalkeeper Glen Moss] has signalled their availability. With Ryan, that will always be a topic but he was on the bench for Tottenham [against Liverpool on Tuesday] and you're not on the bench unless you're fit and healthy."

The Jamaica match is the first for New Zealand since the 3-0 defeat to Australia in Adelaide last June and the last before June's World Cup qualifiers. Herbert will pick a strong squad but he is also likely to opt for a couple of players he wants to learn more about.

That could mean a debut for Dan Keat, who last year became a teammate of David Beckham at LA Galaxy. The midfielder captained New Zealand at the 2007 Under-20 World Cup and was also part of the last Olympic campaign but is yet to play for the All Whites.

A player who could make way for Keat is veteran midfielder Simon Elliott. The 37-year-old, who was a standout at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when he helped New Zealand to three draws, is part of the wider All Whites squad but Herbert knows what he can do. He is also unlikely to be part of the team should they qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"The game to me is pretty irrelevant," Herbert said. "It's important for me to look at some guys and see how much progress they have made against a team who are pretty much ranked in the top 50 in the world. I think I will throw a few of those players in there and have a look but in their own right they will be good.

"You have players like Chris Wood, Kosta Barbarouses, Marco Rojas, even Winston Reid and Tommy Smith. They are still young in terms of international games. I think the team will have a pretty exciting look. I wouldn't say it's one for the future because I think these players will be ready to step up and play in [the World Cup qualifiers in] June but I will go for a cross-section of players like that."

Nelsen last played for the All Whites in the 1-1 post-World Cup friendly with Honduras in Auckland but has said he is keen to be involved in the next World Cup campaign and also this year's Olympics.

That looked uncertain for a period. He hasn't played a Premier League match since August because of a troublesome knee. But the 34-year-old last week transferred from Blackburn to Tottenham for the rest of the English season and was on the bench for Spurs this week.

ALL WHITES

Possible All Whites squad: Mark Paston, Jake Gleeson, Tony Lochhead, Ryan Nelsen, Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Ben Sigmund, Ivan Vicelich, Leo Bertos, Tim Brown, Michael McGlinchey, Dan Keat, Marco Rojas, Kosta Barbarouses, Jeremy Brockie, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood, Rory Fallon.

- APNZ

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