Soccer: Back to the future for seasoned six

By Steven Holloway

Winston Reid. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Winston Reid. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The All Whites are likely to retain six starters from their last match at the 2010 World Cup when they face Mexico in the first leg of their November playoff to make it to Brazil.

While the route through Mexico is not ideal, coach Ricki Herbert will be encouraged by the number of players he has retained who have striven in adversity before.

Meeting the likes of former Barcelona star Rafael Marquez and Villarreal striker Giovani dos Santos at the high-altitude Azteca Stadium in front of more than 100,000 fans in the middle of the day certainly qualifies as adversity and will require an ultra-defensive mindset from Herbert. Anything better than a 2-0 loss may well be looked upon as a success.

Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, Ivan Vicelich and Shane Smeltz all did the business for Herbert in Bahrain and at the World Cup in South Africa, and all look likely to retain their starting roles in Herbert's favoured 3-4-3 formation.

Glen Moss will start in goal while Andrew Durante is likely to make up a back three alongside Smith and Reid.

Michael McGlinchey is a certainty in the middle of the park and will be partnered by the ageing, yet experienced, legs of 37-year-old veteran Ivan Vicelich or the promising rookie Tim Payne.

Marco Rojas is easily New Zealand's most dangerous attacking weapon but could see himself overlooked as a starter because of his defensive frailties in a match where the All Whites are likely to have little possession.

Smeltz is likely to fill one of the attacking roles while Brockie, Chris Wood, Kosta Barbarouses, Rojas and Rory Fallon will fight it out for the other two positions.

Ben Sigmund will provide defensive cover and Olympique Marseille defender Bill Tuiloma looks likely to make the 18-man squad after impressing in a wing-back role against Trinidad and Tobago.

Tuiloma's emergence, along with that of Storm Roux, could help solve New Zealand's long-term problem at right-back but it has come too late for the present campaign.

- NZ Herald

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