Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Soccer: Nelsen prepares for unpredictable Solomon Islands

Ryan Nelsen. Photo / Getty Images
Ryan Nelsen. Photo / Getty Images

Ryan Nelsen's aside that the Solomon Islands could take to the North Harbour Stadium pitch tomorrow night wearing sleeping bags to guard against the cold has serious undertones - the All Whites are preparing for anything.

Nelsen's remark, made after training today as the rain set in, followed the party line about not being complacent against the Pacific Islanders, but after the Oceania Nations Cup debacle in Honiara there should be no chance of that in the World Cup qualifier.

The New Zealanders' 2-0 victory over New Caledonia on Friday in the first of six qualifiers helped exorcise some of the demons remaining from the shock loss to the same opposition in the Oceania Nations Cup final in June, but Nelsen, who did not play in that tournament, insisted that the lessons had to be learned.

"It's like anything, you have to learn from your mistakes, and that was a mistake. There's hiding from it, mistakes were made, but as long as you learn from it you come out better for it," Nelsen said.

"Personally I don't have a lot of information on them [Solomons]. Oceania Football don't really release very many videos on them. We know what they're going to be like and that's unpredictable. They'll mis-control a pass one minute then hit one from 30m out the next. They're athletic, unpredictable - we know they're going to be tough."

Coach Ricki Herbert, who will name his team tomorrow, confirmed that Tommy Smith should be available despite a bruised foot, with fellow defender Ben Sigmund also likely to be involved despite a stomach bug.

Herbert said he was wary of changing the line-up too much but admitted he could tinker with his strikers.

Goalscorers Shane Smeltz and Chris Wood, plus Jeremy Brockie, started up front in the recent match against New Caledonia.

"We're considering a couple [of changes]," Herbert said. "I'm not really keen to change a lot. That group had to step out and get the campaign underway [against New Caledonia]. There was pressure on us all to do that and they did it and pretty effectively as well."

There is a feeling that Smeltz at least could be rested, with Kosta Barbarouses, Marco Rojas and Chris Killen other options up front for Herbert, who will come up against striker Benjamin Totori, his recent signing for the Wellington Phoenix.

"Collectively they're a side that will come here pretty confident. They got a good win over Tahiti [2-0], it's up to us now."

Meanwhile, 35-year-old defender Nelsen, said he was enjoying his time at new club Queens Park Rangers. Nelsen has joined his former manager at Blackburn Rovers, Mark Hughes, at Rangers following a one-season stint at Tottenham Hotspur.

"It's great being back with Mark Hughes, I know all the staff there and it's part of a little revolution, the owner is changing a lot of things, it's pretty cool," he said.

"I love London, in hindsight I kind of wish I did it a few years earlier. In saying that, I obviously had an amazing experience in Blackburn but it definitely rains a lot less down south."

- APNZ

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