Soccer: Jetsetting All Whites

By Michael Burgess

Private plane and smooth flights needed to get players to LA within the Fifa window.

West Ham's Winston Reid, left, fights for the ball with Everton's Romelu Lukaku. Photo / AP
West Ham's Winston Reid, left, fights for the ball with Everton's Romelu Lukaku. Photo / AP

The All Whites team for the World Cup playoff with Mexico will be named this morning - but getting many of the squad to North America remains a challenge, with the possibility that a private jet could be used to ferry some of the players.

The team is set to assemble, from different parts of the globe, in Los Angeles on November 9.

However many clubs, including West Ham (Winston Reid), Ipswich (Tommy Smith), Leicester City (Chris Wood) and the Phoenix (Andrew Durante, Jeremy Brockie, Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund and Glen Moss) want to use their All Whites in matches on that day.

New Zealand Football is insisting that all players are in Los Angeles by November 9, the first day of the five-day Fifa window before the match. Negotiations are ongoing between NZF and the clubs, with the national body seeking logistical guarantees that if the players do play, they will still arrive in the United States on November 9.

Sources in England have indicated that West Ham are considering hiring a private jet - likely to cost in excess of 100,000 ($192,000) - to ferry All Whites captain Reid across the Atlantic after their game.

The Hammers have won only two of their first 10 Premier League games and sit just two points outside the relegation zone.

They are desperate for Reid - who has recently been targeted by Arsenal - to feature in the must-win match against Norwich. The game kicks off at 5.30pm (UK time), which rules out the prospect of taking a commercial flight and arriving in time.

Ipswich and Leicester City have been in dialogue with West Ham and it is possible Smith and Wood could accompany Reid on the same flight.

There is also a dilemma around the Phoenix quintet. The Wellington club can't afford to miss five of their leading players for the game against Perth Glory but it will be a race to get to Auckland airport to make the flight. The match kicks off at 5.30pm (though it may be changed to 5pm) in Christchurch.

After the match, the players would need to get to Christchurch airport for the 8.20pm flight to Auckland, take off without any delays, land at the scheduled time of 9.40pm and then get through customs and security in time to board the 10.45pm flight to Los Angeles. It's tight and NZF is seeking assurances from Air New Zealand and the Phoenix that it is feasible.

Kosta Barbarouses is unlikely to play for Melbourne Victory on the same day, as the match kicks off at 7.30pm (AEST) which probably precludes the possibility of making a timely connection to Los Angeles.

Arriving on November 9 is critical. The team has only three training sessions - two on November 10 and one the following day - before the game at the Azteca Stadium on November 14 (9.30am NZT) and can't afford to have any players missing.

Meanwhile, Manchester United's Javier Hernandez and Villarreal's Giovani dos Santos are among several European-based stars who have been left out of the Mexican squad named to face the All Whites.

Coach Miguel Herrera has selected a team made up entirely of Mexican-based players, ironically citing concerns about the tiring effect of travel from Europe to Mexico then on to New Zealand for EPL star Hernandez and company.

It's a brave stance from the new coach, though his home-based team proved their mettle with a 4-2 win over Finland last week at home in Mexico City.

They are likely to have no problems with combinations or cohesion as 10 of the players come from the club side America, which used to be managed by Herrera.

Tight travel schedule

* All Whites team set to be announced at 11am today.
* NZF has required logistical guarantees of all players arriving in Los Angeles by November 9.
* Winston Reid (West Ham), Tommy Smith (Ipswich) and Chris Wood (Leicester) may fly by private jet to meet that deadline.
* Five Phoenix players will also face tight schedule to assemble with All Whites squad.

- NZ Herald

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