Soccer: Herbert brings in his Cup big guns

By Terry Maddaford

Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid have been spearheaded by Shane Smeltz. Photo / Richard Robinson.
Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid have been spearheaded by Shane Smeltz. Photo / Richard Robinson.

Ricki Herbert is taking no chances in opting for experience to carry the All Whites' hopes in tonight's Oceania World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in Noumea.

In four changes from the team who lost to the New Caledonians 2-0 at June's Nations Cup in Honiara, goalkeeper Mark Paston replaces Jake Gleeson. Glen Moss will provide cover on the bench.

Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid, who missed the Nations Cup, will start, as will Jeremy Brockie in what appears a potent attacking line-up spearheaded by Shane Smeltz.

Ben Sigmund, Chris Killen and Kosta Barbarouses - who started in Honiara - have made way for Nelsen, Reid and Brockie in what appears will be a 3-4-3 formation with Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos to be used as wing backs outside Ivan Vicelich and Michael McGlinchey, who will play in the heart of the midfield. Chris Wood will join Smeltz and Brockie.

Herbert hinted strongly he would revert to his three-man central defensive unit.

"When we have everyone available, and this is probably the first time since the World Cup we've had that, then it's been a successful system for us," said Herbert.

"The variety we have now is certainly more than we've had historically. There are choices now not only on who we play but how we play.

"The middle of the park is starting to grow. Somebody like a Tim Payne was very good at the Olympics and is just adding to the volume of quality in that area of the pitch."

Herbert and his team are fully aware of the dangers posed by a New Caledonia outfit containing Olivier Dokunengo, Georges Gope-Fenepej and Bertrand Kai but still plan to stamp the All Whites' mark on this stage of the qualifying campaign early.

Earlier today the Solomon Islands will host Nations Cup champions Tahiti in Honiara in the opening match of the World Cup qualifiers. The game in Noumea will kick off two hours earlier than originally scheduled but, given the favourable weather, Herbert does not see that as a problem.

ROUND ONE

Solomon Islands v Tahiti
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Today 4pm (NZ time)
Referee: Jamie Cross (NZ)

New Caledonia v New Zealand
Stade Numa Daly
Noumea, New Caledonia
Today 7pm (NZ time)
Referee: Norbert Hauata (Tahiti)

All Whites: Mark Paston, Leo Bertos, Winston Reid, Ryan Nelsen (c), Tommy Smith, Tony Lochhead, Ivan Vicelich, Michael McGlinchey, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood and Jeremy Brockie. Substitutes, Glen Moss, Michael Boxall, Ben Sigmund, Dan Keat, Tim Payne, Kosta Barbarouses, Rory Fallon, Marco Rojas, Chris Killen.

- NZ Herald

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